Harry Carter Commentary

As we approach the first anniversary of the murderous attacks upon our nation, I believe the time has come to reflect upon some of the important lessons that have been identified in the past year. You may all remember that I refused to second-guess the...


As we approach the first anniversary of the murderous attacks upon our nation, I believe the time has come to reflect upon some of the important lessons that have been identified in the past year. You may all remember that I refused to second-guess the operations of the New York City Fire Department during the weeks and months immediately after the incident. I urged you all to remain patient until the investigations began to generate facts that could lead to conclusions and recommendations. The time has arrived to see what we can learn from the operations in New York.

I will be concentrating on the operations in New York. However, you should remember with equal reverence the loss of those folks at the Pentagon in Virginia, and the crash in western Pennsylvania. There are many parts to that sad day known as 9-11.

Let me make my first statement about this as simple as I possibly can. Bravery is never enough. Regardless of the naysayers and detractors, no one will ever be able to convince me that any of the lives that were lost, were wasted.

I am sure that we would rather have them in the firehouse kitchen, telling war stories, but in any war there are casualties, and make no mistake about it: we are at war. I want to say, with a certain amount of sadness, that we are waiting as a nation for the other shoe to drop. What we must do is work to minimize the number of casualties when the cowardly bastards, that live in caves and eat dead rats, come at us again.

The FDNY has a long history of dedication and heroism. I was sickened by the ranting of a particular editorial writer who portrayed the departed members as cowboys running rampant through the towers. It is amazing people that have never faced a life and death situation are so quick to condemn those who do it as a matter of course.

Maybe there could have been a better system of operational control. I am not the one to say that because I have never experienced an operation of that magnitude. Each plane crash I attended in the U.S. Air Force involved planes and the earth, no buildings.

It is sad to say folks, the bravery of our troops that we seemingly take for granted, must be supported by the necessary technical and operational support. Our politicians and citizens must be made willing to pay for those tools that will make our task easier and safer. The results of the study conducted by an outside consultant are in, and I have been able to review them.

The report on the 9-11 operations published by McKinsey & Company is sending a strong message to the world. This message must be reviewed and understood by all who are willing to look and listen. We must change a number of things. Guts and pride cannot overcome a lack of effective planning, technologically advanced equipment, and well-trained forces.

As I read my copy of that important report, which I downloaded from the FDNY website [McKinsey Report], a number of things jumped out at me. I began to think that I had seen a number of the things that were mentioned. Some old lessons were once again brought forward for me to study: Lessons that had not been learned.

There were issues of operation control, accountability, and a lack of interagency cooperation. An incident of this magnitude stresses even the most well drilled incident command system. However, the report calls for an increased emphasis on the use of ICS.

In the months since the tragedy, both the fire and police department have taken steps toward working more from a common sheet of music. As one who follows the New York scene on a daily basis via the media, the stories of the battles and lack of cooperation between those two agencies has been the fodder for many television news shows. That may have played a negative role on September 11.

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