The Newark Fire Department's apparatus fleet is ailing. Many days there are apparatus breakdowns. There are no solid spares in the fleet. The fleet is aged, and no great efforts are being made to change that. Maybe the $300,000 spent on a new garbage truck would not fully fund a new fire vehicle, but it sure could go a long ways down the right road. Should we take the acquisition of garbage trucks with homeland security money as a sign from above that something is wrong with our national priorities? You can bet your fireman's boots on that one.
Periodically I wish that someone in government would just own up to the fact that the terrorists have seemingly won the war. I can hear the booing now. "Oh Harry, you cannot say that, it is so unpatriotic." Bull ----!!
I have a veteran's right to say what I feel on this matter. Like some of you, I served my country in time of war. Twenty-six years of devoted service in the active and reserve armed forces of our nation have earned me the right to share my opinion with you. Here it comes.
We have been turned into a nation of Nervous Nellie's who allow their own grandmothers to be strip-searched by people wearing white shirts, black pants, and rubber gloves. How can we claim to be winning the war on terror when we are now forced to submit to a level of security that borders on something dreamed up by the Third Reich in Nazi Germany?
Let me tell you that if I hear one more person tell me about how many of their rights they will gladly give up, if they could just be safe and secure, I think I will vomit. Let me offer the words of Ben Franklin on this matter. If you would care to check, he was the man who said, "Those who give up liberty for the sake of security deserve neither liberty nor security."
Last year on my way back from the Fire Rescue International Conference, I witnessed an abomination on the face of this earth. I saw a Past National Commander of the Jewish War Veterans run through the mill by the security force at the airport in New Orleans last year.
That distinguished-looking, elderly gentleman was frail and wheelchair- bound, yet the security forces of our nation made the man stand up, take his belt off and endure the humiliation of a close frisking. Here was a man, a member of the Greatest Generation, who served honorably in defense of freedom being treated like a criminal. I was saddened beyond belief.
Folks, please hear me out. There may be a terrorist attack. There may not be a terrorist attack. Much like comedian Dennis Miller, I can only assure you that the words in this commentary are my opinion, and I could be wrong. People want absolute guarantees of security. No can no amigos. I cannot give you a guarantee about anything in this life, except death and probably taxes; they both seem fairly certain.
What I suggest to you is that we need to get out of the realm of the "what-if" and come back into the world of "what-is". I am referring to an issue near and dear to the hearts of all: firefighter safety and health. My friends, firefighters are dying and it seems that this occurrence is happening more often that any of us would like.
Here is the reality of life my dear friends. If a terrorist wants to kill people, they will. If a few people, out of the millions who come to our country every year, want to conspire to kill you or me they will. Terrorists usually succeed because they are able to hide in the shadows of the world and thrive on surprise. The size of the world, the openness of our society, and the large number of people who hate our guts makes it probable that this might happen again.
However is that probability of terrorist attack greater than the probability of a firefighter dying in the next three days? Will there be a terrorist attack before our next firefighter is called home to the Lord? If you asked me to bet on which it would be, my dollars would be bet against the stack of chips put forward when our next brother or sister dies.
While we are dabbling in the federal world of homeland security possibilities one terrible reality is staring us in the face. Firefighters are dying in numbers that seem to be creeping up again. That is a here and now problem which we have to attack. Let us grab the bull by the horns, or wherever else you might like to grab the bull.