To Err is Human

Let me begin by stating that this is a column that many of my fellow fire service writers would not write. However, I am doing this because it is the right thing for me to do. There is no getting around it. When you screw up you must apologize. That has...


Let me begin by stating that this is a column that many of my fellow fire service writers would not write. However, I am doing this because it is the right thing for me to do. There is no getting around it. When you screw up you must apologize. That has been my way for a long time now. You do not hide, neither do you make excuses or seek to place the blame on someone else. No, when you make a mistake you apologize. Since my most recent screw up was of the major league variety, so it is that my apology must also rise to the level of the occasion.

Well my friends, I guess by now you are thinking that 'good old' Harry has really fouled up. Here goes my friends, let me tell you a little tale about a personal mistake I made the other day. I was supposed to deliver a very special speech for my friend Dayna Hilton on Wednesday, June 29 at the National Fire Academy.

It was my assignment to create and deliver a remembrance for her late fire safety sidekick, Sparkles. It was an engagement which I willingly accepted. It was an event to which I looked forward with a great of pride and excitement. However, it was an event at which I never appeared.

My friends, I simply screwed up. I had the wrong date on my calendar. For some reason when Dayna told me that it was to occur on June 29, my brain registered June 30 and that is what I put on all of my calendars. That is what I told my wife Jackie (She, who must be obeyed). I even reserved a room at the Marriott Courtyard in Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania so that I would not have a long drive on the day of the event.

I wrote the speech and sent it to Dayna for her approval. Her message told me that she liked it a lot. I edited it, tweaked it, broadened it and narrowed it down. You know, all of the stuff that one should do when editing any important message. I placed it in plastic page protectors and assembled a very nice looking loose-leaf binder.

Dayna took the time to send me a PDF file with the program for the event. Now pay attention my friends, because here is where the depth and range of my personal mistake begins to manifest make itself. I printed out the program, placed it in the plastic page protector and put it in the loose-leaf notebook. What I failed to do was read the program.

Had I read the program, I would have noted (since I do understand a bit about the English language) that the date was June 29, 2011, not June 30. I would have made this discovery in sufficient time to alter my travel plans and arrive where I was supposed to be. But I did not. Therefore the ill-fortunes of fate were fed by my feral intransigence.

So there I was, sitting in my favorite recliner in the air conditioned luxury of the living room of the Carter Family Estate in beautiful, downtown Adelphia, New Jersey when I received a phone call from a friend asking me where I was. I politely informed him that I was sitting on my butt watching an old movie on the Turner Classic Movie network. He then suggested that there was somewhere else that I should be. It suddenly dawned on me that he was referring to the event in Emmitsburg, Maryland. I said no, it was on the 30th and checked my calendar. I went and check my calendar just to be sure.

It was then that I got another call which I quickly answered. It was from my friend and fellow Firehouse magazine writer Susie Nicol. She said that Dayna wanted to know where I was and how long it would take me to get to Emmitsburg. I told her that if I changed clothes quickly and did not catch any red lights that I was about four hours away. It was then that the magnitude of my screw began to well up in my mind's eye.

My friends, in this instance it was I who created all of the errors which led to me do something that I had never done before in my thirty plus years as a public speaker. I was not standing in front of the podium where my butt was supposed to be. Now please bear in mind that I have spoken in more than 30 states across our nation and in three Canadian provinces and that I had never missed a gig before.

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