We are all climbing

Tomorrow, Rhett (The Fire Critic), Kevin Tottin ( Salem Fire / EMS ) and I will arrive in Baltimore, Md for Firehouse Expo 2011.

We have a very busy work schedule through Sunday. We will be there working with Firefighter Netcast  and will be set up in Booth #743 with the likes of  Bill Schum ( Fire Geezer) and Dave Statter ( Statter 911 ) … Stop by for a visit!

We also have several meetings to attend and people to meet with. You will of course find us with the crew from the Fire/EMS Blog Network, Go Forward Media  and Go Forward Fire.  Bosses Dave Iannone and Chris ” hey buuuuuddy” Herbert always take pretty good care of us.  Bill Carey, Paul Andrews and Mary Velline are another 3 folks from the Go Forward team who have always made me feel right at home.  You may also find us hanging out with Zach Green and his crew from MN8 Products / Fox Fire.  Despite all the work, we’re gonna have a good time!

We (Rhett, Kevin and I) will also be participating in the 9/11 Memorial Stair Climb on Thursday at 2pm.  We will climb 110 stories of stairs in full turn out gear (I’ll be the skinny guy with a big mustache carrying Rhett).

Someone asked me the other day why in the world would I want to do that?

That’s easy … because my brothers of the FDNY couldn’t !  They weren’t allowed the time. The towers came down before they could complete their job and maybe,  in some small way; this will allow me to finish it for them.

343 members of the FDNY were climbing those stairs for the people pictured above right …. now, I’ll climb for those 343!

At the sign up, we were asked if we’d like to climb in honor or memory of a particular Firefighter. I choose Joseph “Joey” Angelini.

That’s Joey pictured to the left. Years ago, I used to go to the city for St. Patty’s Day. I’d always stay at a firehouse and catch a ride. One of my first rides was with Rescue 1. Joey was on that tour and went out of his way to spend time and talk with me. He made a lasting impression.

He was the oldest member of the FDNY still in company and he was on one of the busiest rigs !  Talk about Wooden Ladders and Iron Firemen!

His love for the job was evident in his every word …. the pride and honor. It doesn’t seem like we see a lot of that any more.

Like my dad, Joey must have passed his passion on to his son. Joseph Angelini Jr. followed his father’s footsteps but, regretfully; was also killed in the towers that September day ( assigned to Ladder Company 4).

My climb wont be easy. Their’s was worse!

I haven’t been to the gym nor have I practiced for the event. They didn’t have that luxury. The alarm sounded and they went.

This climb  has been on my mind a lot lately. I feel honored to have the opportunity.

As I was thinking, it hit me … I’ve been climbing stairs all my life. Most of us on the job have.

Not necessarily stairs like I’ll climb on Thursday, or the ones they climbed that day; but stairs none the less.

Give me a minute or 20 to explain.

Rhett had a post up last week about the final season of Rescue Me. See that post HERE . In it, he says …

“I think that many may agree that Rescue Me was a decent show in the beginning, but as the seasons progressed dysfunctional lives and too often nearly impossible heroics in conditions which are not indicative of normal firefighting lost real firefighters along the way.”

I have to disagree. I LOVE the show. I can relate to the character Tommy Gavin. The show hasn’t “lost” me and, despite what others may think; I consider myself to be a “real firefighter”.

I’m as dysfunctional as Gavin. Hell, maybe more so! Most of the old or “real” firefighters I know are as well. WE HAVE TO BE! Is that a good thing? Healthy? Probably not but that doesn’t change the facts.

Are we all as messed up as Gavin? No…. it’s TV. They just rolled all (or most of) our problems into one character.

You can’t see what we’ve seen and do what we’ve done and think yourself normal. Do dead people talk to me from inside my locker? NO. But there are faces I see often and will never forget. Memories I can’t loose. I would bet that true statistics within our profession for alcohol and spousal abuse would amaze you. Whats the divorce rate in your Department? The stress of this job can be overwhelming. Wonder why heart attacks are so prevalent?

Talk about stairs to climb …. try working a 24 hour shift away from your family. Get off tomorrow morning and go to you’r 2nd job. Screen a few calls from the wife about where you have to be when to pick up the kid or kids for this or that. Fire Officer class is tonight 6- 8pm … that promotion test is just weeks away and Firefighter “Joe” from the truck could use a hand building his deck for the company cookout next week.

Don’t forget to stop by so and so and drop off a check for whatever lesson or sports club and we’re out of milk.

By the way, the dishwasher quit working,  the grass needs mowed and my car is making a “funny noise”.

Do you have enough hours in the day? Enough days in the week? Are you making enough money? Yea… all the firemen I know are filthy RICH! How about your runs?  Seeing anything that bothers you? Hungry, low income children. Do ya see people you want to help and cant?

Get closer to home How many games have you missed due to pulling a tour? How many birthdays, holidays etc? How many times have you been pulled between you’re “firehouse family” and your family at home?

It’s an up hill battle…. “stairs to climb”  and it comes with the job. Over worked, under paid, seeing people in the worst conditions, sacrificing ourselves and our families for complete strangers . .. why? Because it’s a calling … It’s OUR CALLING!

 The bad news is that there are plenty of steps. They keep going up and up. My good friend and West Coast Brother Joe Schmoe must feel like he’s on an escalator. He called last week and I knew something was heavy on his mind. He didn’t get the chance to tell me but I know what it is. Cold feet. Schmoe is nearing retirement (as in about a month away). He’s been climbing those stairs so long, he doesn’t know how to stop. He’s not sure if he wants to. I hope he finds a peaceful landing to catch his breath. I know he will but I also know that his heart and soul is in that stairway. The same one we are all climbing. Not unlike the ones that collapsed on our brothers back in 2001.

That’s why I’m climbing Thursday. Because of firemen before me like my dad and Captain Joe Schmoe who have made their climb. I’m climbing because  if any of those 343 Brothers lost on September 11, 2001  were here today, I’d guarantee they’d miss or sacrifice whatever to be right there in those stairways again.

Thursday, they will be. They will be in a stairway in Baltimore Md. They will be in my mind and I WONT MISS A SINGLE STEP !!

I’ll update ya from the road… until then, stay safe and in house!

Captain Wines