The Sacred Bond

Much has been said regarding the Brotherhood of the Fire Service since the tragic events of September 11, 2001 thrust the fire service into the limelight. People who never took the time to stop by and say hello at our fire stations heap praise upon us as though we were some form of newly discovered religion. Others looked upon us for a time as some quaint, but out of date anachronism. Sort of like one might observe the Knights of the Round Table.

All of this has sort of died down now. We are returning to the days of abuse and layoffs. Witness what is happening in the New York City Fire Department.

Sadly, there are also those people who seek to perpetuate this public praise party, whose sole role in this festival of praise lies within the thicket of selfish gain. This we see in the plethora of tee shirts, sweatshirts, books, glasses, bottles and etc. These people look at us as some form of heroic profit center. I am truly saddened by this. It cheapens our service and causes us to become little more than a public curiosity. My dear friends, we are far more than all of this.

Ours is an association of individuals engaged in a common struggle against the forces of uncertainty, death, and danger. In an earlier time, we might have been cast as a sort of confraternal organization. We would have been seen as a body of tough men coming together on the field of battle to share our skills and dedication against a common enemy.

Perhaps the example of the Knights of the Round Table is an apt comparison to make. These people were brave. They had faith in the rightness of their mission. Each one could count upon the other to defend him to the death. Moreover, sadly, many died defending their vows of fealty. These are fine points to ponder.

As I was channel surfing during lunch the other day, I came across one of my favorite movies: Backdraft. Unlike many of my purist friends in the fire service, I embraced this movie as an excellent way to reach the public. Hell, it was our movie. It was not about police, drugs, shootings and car crashes. Being from a major, metropolitan fire department, I saw "certain areas of commonality" within the framework of the movie.

I took a great deal of flak from my colleagues in the national organizations back in 1991 for supporting this "distorted" (by their view of the world) view of the fire service. Bull! That movie told a true story of life in the big city. I just happened to surf in on the scene where the floor is collapsing and one of the firefighters is in danger of falling into the fire below. The lines are a classic and they make my point here today.

The firefighter yells out to his colleagues, "