A dear friend asked me an important question the other day. He asked, quite simply "where did Harry Carter go?" When I asked him what he meant, his answer was simple, direct, and to the point. What ever happened to the Harry Carter who sallied forth to kick some serious fire service butt and maybe, just maybe, take some names?
I was stunned by the directness of his question. Was I not still Harry Carter? My favorite local bank was still cashing checks made out to Harry Carter. All of the bills still had Harry Carter's name on them. So I must still be Harry Carter. Right?
As he and I wove the magic tapestry of a conversation between dear friends, his point became evident. My words of late have become more about me than you. Somewhere along the line I forgot that you, my dear friends around the country, were the reason for my weekly visits with you. I am sure many of you sensed this, but were too kind to comment. So in line with my bent for the academic, a bit of research was undertaken to address this matter.
Do you know how long it has been since I have kicked anyone or anything in the butt on your behalf? If my reading of my own words is correct, the year was 2003 and the topics were Homeland Security and Tom Ridge. By God that was a great set of words. The title of the first telling treatise was Do Not Tell Me it is Raining. That blast from the heart was followed up a week later with a rejoinder entitled Upon Further Reflection.
In those two works my words bashed the powers that be in our government for pulling a bait and switch on the fire service. The first commentary was toned down on the advice of a friend, after I was informed that the White House would not let Secretary Ridge come to the Caucus Dinner and face the wrath of a fire service protest orchestrated by yours truly.
If you recall, my words at that time reported faithfully on what was said to us all in Washington back then. It was my promise to you at that time that my task would involve watching what the feds were doing: for us or to us. Then somewhere along the line I lost it friends. My feet veered from the path charted for you. In the midst of my desire to see the system to work, I set back and let events run their course without commenting.
It was a serious mistake on my part to do this for you see the system was never designed to help us in the fire service. For the past several weeks a number of issues have been running around loose in my brain. How those thoughts should be addressed caused me many a puzzling moment. The issues of homeland security and terrorism have really been ticking me off lately. I have also been pondering the fate of the National Fire Academy, the U. S. Fire Administration, and a number of other critical matters. Time has been spent comparing the actualities of the year 2005 with the predictions made by me in years past. Let me hereby announce for one and all to hear that "I told you so."
I might be wrong my friends but it is my belief we need to get our act together. We as a service have enjoyed some successes, however the fact remains that the fire service has become lost in a world gone mad with thoughts of terrorism, and worries about weapons of mass destruction. We are awash in a sea of homeland security consultants who wouldn't know what a fire truck looked like even if you held them by the hand and led them over to touch one.
Millions have been spent on homeland security, and are we really any more secure because of the blizzard of bucks being blown across the landscape of our great nation? The use of $300,000 to buy garbage trucks in Newark is only the tip of the iceberg.
What makes the Newark situation more egregious is the fact the feds are agreeing with Newark on this matter. Yeah, you can buy garbage trucks if you want, so what. Sure, sure, they can be used to transport body parts. What a load of hooey. If the picture of your loved ones being toted away to their final resting place in a Newark garbage truck is not troubling enough, think about this?