Ed Note: The following is a commentary from Chief Billy Goldfeder. The opinions expressed herein follow the death of Miami-Dade Firefighter Wayne Mitchell Friday during a training exercise.
On Friday, we all learned of the tragic death of Miami-Dade Firefighter Wayne Mitchell, a trainee, which occurred during a training detail. As always, we respectfully discuss the details and comments to LEARN or to motivate learning -- so this stuff can be prevented -- not to be critical, Monday Morning quarterback or any of that kinda stuff.
But the issue is that it happened again. So now, what can be done so it doesn't happen again to ANOTHER FIREFIGHTER.
When we read about Wayne (click here see article) and the effort he made to become a FIREFIGHTER ... to become one of "us" ... I thought of "his world" before -- as a "civilian" (as we call people who ain't us) lifeguard, athlete, son, husband, brother and friend -- in what were his PRE-firefighter days.
I always like to talk with or think about rookie firefighters and their "before" and "after" world-once they become a FIREFIGHTER. When we heard his name on Friday morning, our normally odd thoughts came to think of the "Wayne's World" Movie. What was "Wayne's World" before and after becoming a firefighter.
I get great enjoyment out of talking to the family members of a probie -- to get their perspective on the "fire" stuff. Actually, meeting the families of our firefighters is one of the greatest "joys" of the job, as far as I am concerned. When we see them at some ceremony or celebration, they are always all big smiles, BEAMING with pride on the accomplishment of their Son, Husband, Daughter, Wife or whoever recently changed "their world" ... to become a part of "our world."
About a year ago, my boss and I were at the Ohio Fire Academy attending the graduation of one of our "newest family members" and, as usual, we spent some time with the family members of this probie.
There were the smiles, the happiness and beaming pride of the family members, as they spoke about OUR (theirs and our) newest rookie, the newest member of OUR FD family. As we were leaving the Academy, I thought about that "picture" in my mind-one we (and you) have lived hundreds of times before and the real issue involving all this.
The REAL issue of the fact that day, is that kid became our newest member and our only REAL priority is to make sure we send'em home to those "happy, beaming and proud" family members, who we just met, in one piece after every shift.
That is our only responsibility:
Where is he? What is he doing? Is he geared up? Is he trained for the next run and all the other questions we have to ask about every one of these "kids" who we are responsible for. The family members smile, beam and they proudly "give us" their kid with the unspoken words "take care of him for us" clearly creating a begging atmosphere of trust.
Just like the rookie at our FD, MDFR's Wayne became one of "us". He must have had some idea of what "our" world was like -- and couldn't wait to become a part of it. Party On Wayne.
And he did finally become a part of it ... a "new" gung-ho, enthusiastic "studying-his-butt-off-in probie school" member of THE FAMILY. He studied, got "the job" and all comments and reports are that he excelled in his rookie class. Now, he must have thought, this is very, VERY COOL. Life was great before, but now - "I'm a firefighter ... I'm on THE JOB." Remember that feeling?
Wayne's World changed, becoming even better than it was before. Now he was one of us......Excellent.
The rest of the story? It's over.
As quick as his NEW, exciting "fire-rescue service" life began-it came to an abrupt and tragic end. "Wayne's World" ... with it's latest improvement -- which was "him" becoming "one of us" ended almost before it even really started on Friday, when he lost his life while at a training evolution.