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All good things must come to an end, and so must my time as the author of this column. Although I’m sad to stop writing this column after six years, I’ve enjoyed every minute. Since this is my last column, I thought I would take a cue from my predecessor. When I took over in 2007 from Jonathan Bastian, he called his final column “Coal and Diamonds.” For what occurred during his time as the author for which he was grateful, he gave diamonds. For what occurred for which he was not grateful, he gave coal. Jonathan’s approach has stuck with me and I’ll do my best to repeat his effort.
Diamonds go to the staff at Firehouse® Magazine, who have been more than supportive of me. They have given me the creative liberty to say what I wanted to say in the way I wanted to say it. Those who know me well know that sometimes it is very tough for me to keep my opinions to myself. I don’t think I could be successful in a relationship where every word I wrote was picked apart, critiqued or questioned. No one at Firehouse® ever did that. I am very grateful to them.
Needing help in hard times
Giant lumps of coal go to most politicians. The past six years have been very hard on the fire service in terms of funding. We’ve seen politicians play games with departments and their budgets. We’ve seen them call into question the safety of the citizens and seriously understaff firehouses, prolonging response times. Of course, there are politicians who have not done this, and although some have stuck up for what was right and funded what was necessary, unfortunately many have not.
Diamonds go to those who tried to help. Although many agencies and organizations have stepped in to help fund public safety, the two I’ve worked the closest with were Fireman’s Fund and 500 for Life.
Lumps of coal go to those of you in the fire service who would rather create division than foster unity. In this era of budget cuts and reduced manpower, the fire service needs unity more than ever before. If you disagree, disagree politely. We are all in this together and we need to have each other’s backs.
Diamonds go to the other manufacturers of thermal imagers and personal protective equipment (PPE). The fire service is lucky to have a technology field dominated by responsible companies dedicated to developing great products and enhancing firefighter safety. The fire service is full of demanding customers, and it takes passion and dedication to try to protect and serve the fire service well. I applaud all those manufacturers who take that to heart.
The biggest, most brilliant diamonds go to that large, dysfunctional family I call the fire service. I have been in the fire service since 1988. I have held different positions in several departments. I have learned much and been humbled many times. I have felt both joy and sorrow, and my fire service family has been there for me every step of the way. The world needs more firefighters. The world needs more people who can set aside individual differences and do what needs to be done. It has been more than 12 years, but I still can’t imagine what went through the heads of those firefighters in New York City when they saw the smoke billowing from the World Trade Center towers. I can’t articulate what they must have thought or felt before heading inside, but I can tell you I’ve seen similar determination in many a firefighter. Once that bell rings, every firefighter knows that somebody else’s needs are more important than his or her own.
As I end my time writing this column, I leave you in good hands. John Hays is the new author. John has been in and around the fire service for nearly 14 years, and you would be hard-pressed to find someone more knowledgeable about the technology and application of thermal imaging.
Finally, I’ll leave you with one of my favorite quotes from Theodore Roosevelt. Since the first time I read it, I have felt that it embodies the fire service: “It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes up short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”
Until we meet again, stay safe. n