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Smoke and Mirrors: Stop calling firefighters "heroes."

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  • I've Calmed Down (Somewhat).....

    Okay, I know it was a cheap shot I took at this MUTT earlier, but it was well deserved nonetheless. It also made me feel better. I am sorry that there are people out there who have read this trash and will have their opinions about us changed to reflect that of the author. I surely hope that the people out there realize that this was written by someone who either doesn't have the stomach or courage to do what we do every day, day in, day out. When I responded on Christmas morning, 2001 to a vehicle accident with an ejected child fatality, I could not put off my duties because I knew the child. He was a 3rd grader at the elementary school where I drive a school bus, and had cheered me on a week earlier as I arrived on the scene of a minor accident involving his Grandmother. That same Grandmother was now grieving the loss of that precious child merely a week later. This is the job we do. It is meeting people at the most tragic times of their lives and trying to do the very best we can to make a difference for the better; even if that means making the supreme sacrifice. This man is on no postition to judge us until he has walked SEVERAL miles in our boots. He will be the first one to call (loudly) upon our services should he ever find himself or his beagles in danger. And we will assist him as we would any other customer, giving our very best to do the job we have sworn to do: saving life and property.
    It truly saddens me to think of his words degrading our funeral services. We recently lost our first member, and we honored our brother with two Aerial Units forming the TRADITIONAL arch with an American flag suspended underneath. As the lead units of the procession passed under the arch, they were followed by the family members. As each car passed, family members mouthed the words "Thank you." to each of the dozens of Firemen standing at attention on either side of the highway. Comments were made later after the graveside service that it was such an honor that we bestowed upon their loved one, and that it meant so much for them to know how much he was loved and respected by his brother and sister firefighters. Yet this was a tasteless thing for us to do, according to this man. Having the same chance to show our respect again for this dear brother whom we still mourn, not a one of us would have done it differently. Tradition is strong in our service, as it is in the military and police departments across this nation and throughout the world. To suggest that such a ceremony is a PR stunt, is ludicrous.
    I hope that this man becomes innundated with such a response of negative feedback that he thinks long and hard before straining himself to press those stiff keys on his computer to write his next article. I think he owes us all a deeply sincere apology, but I won't hold my breath. Stay safe brothers and sisters, and may we all continue to return safely from our cushy, non-dangerous, PR driven, heroless jobs.
    Captain Mike Sharp
    Washington Parish Fire
    District #8
    Home of the Dragonslayers
    since 1994!!
    Man hath no greater love than this; that he lay down his life for another.


    • I was informed by Sports Illustrated that Mr. Gantenbein merely writes for them, and they did not publish the article so my comments were best directed at state.com. I agree 100% and here was my email to them, including the original email that appears earlier in this thread, plus what I have written in addition to after reading Mr. Gantenbein's reply to all of us on here.

      The letter that follows in this email was written in response to an article that was written by Mr. Gantenbein about firefighters and their so-called "hero" status. Ask just about any firefighter, and he or she will tell you that we are not hero's, we are, for the most part ordinary people who find ourselves in extraordinary situations. That alone, does not make us hero's, but the public in large, has given us that title. The letter that I have written was originally sent to Mr. Gantenbein himself and to Sports Illustrated, another publication that he writes for. I am now directing this email correctly to you at slate.com as you are the ones who published this article.

      My letter is as follows:

      Mr. Gantenbein and the Staff at Slate.com:

      My name is Shane A. I am writing this email to inform you of how disappointed I am in the article "Smoke and Mirrors: Stop calling firefighters "heros." I am a firefighter/EMT in the town of E. Hampton, CT. My career also lies within the Emergency Medical Services. I spend the majority of my life dedicated to working on the streets of Hartford, CT, working closely with the fire and police departments in the city. Mr. Gantenbein has written an article that is truely offensive to those involved in the emergency services, in particular, those in the fire service.

      Mr. Gantenbein claims that firefighters have a "cushy job." Apparently Mr. Gantenbein has never spent a 24 hour shift riding along with an Engine Company in a busy city service. The 24 hour shift that many fire departments run are not just sitting back washing trucks and cooking burgers. Fire departments have had constantly expanding roles including search and rescue (which is one of the most exhausting calls to ever go on), responding to EMS calls as first responders (or transport services for Fire Dept. based EMS), Motor Vehicle accidents, public safety education and fire inspections. The actual numbers of true fire emergencies has declined due to better building codes and fire prevention systems, but the need for response still exists in great demand.

      The next point made in the article is that "Firefighting is not that dangerous." Safety equipment has improved greatly over the years, making the profession safer then years past. I believe that Mr. Gantenbein neglects to take into consideration the amount of emotional stress involved in having a profession where you must be 100% right, 100% of the time. The comment is made that most of the line of duty deaths that occur during an actual fire are those caused by "some unbelieveable screw-up in chain of command." On an emergency scene, things are far from being a well structured day at the office. There are countless variables, and conditions can change at any moment without warning. There's a saying within the fire service "Risk a little to save a little; Risk a lot to save a lot." Any firefighter knows that any call could be his/her last alarm. It's a risk they've made the decision to accept. It could be your family or loved one that gets saved because someone is willing to give their life to save that of you or your loved one. That's a rather generous commitment that most people would not be willing to provide.

      Following the sequence of the article, "firefighters are adrenaline junkies." To some extent this is very true. You have to be to do this kind of work. It certainly isn't done for the pay, since most civil service jobs don't pay very well, and the majority of the countries fire protection comes from volunteers like myself who do not get paid anything at all for our time and commitment. Firefighters take pride in being a part of what they do. Three major concepts in firefighting are: Life Safety (save any viable life), Incident Stabilization (prevent the incident from worsening), and Property Conservation (save the property in the best and most effecient way possible). These three commitments require a quick action that usually is well calculated and is also adrenaline based. If it weren't, we'd be doing more recoveries then rescues, and rebuilding more then reapiring structures.

      "Firefighters have excellent propaganda skills." That's a rather bold statement in itself. These firefighters have given their life in an attempt to help someone else. They didn't have to choose to do this. They chose it because of a love for what they do. No firefighter wants to have the long formal funeral as that means that they have answered their final call, it's a tradition. Does that mean that the military should not have their ceremonies for those who have given their all? After all, it's just the military "doing their thing."

      Your final statement being "Firefighters are just another special interest group." Another brave statement. We don't need to look very far in any field to find some organizations plagued with problems. The catholic church's with sexual offenders, school's with teacher's have sex with students or taking bribes for grades, major businesses with corupt CEO's. The list could go on and on. Yes, the fire service is heavily unionized in those department's that are paid. And yes, the union does look out for it's own. But if you're not looking out for yourself, who's going to look out for you? The fire service is a very tight brother/sisterhood. In a profession where you must trust each other and their decisions with your life, you learn to look out for each other. It's just the way it is.

      The only thing I have been able to summarize from this piece of literature is that Mr. Gantenbein has never spent any true time to see the inner workings of the emergency services before writing this article. Any time you want to spend a night discussing the trials and tribulations of being involved in a high risk, moderately paying job (if at all for some), that is highly stressful, I'd be happy to have the conversation with you. I'd be happy to tell you about how being involved in something as powerful as the fire service has affected my life in both the good and the bad. There's not a single person that can say that they're unaffected by what they see and have to do on a regular basis. I can sum it with this. Any day at work, I may get to see the miracles of life, or the tradgedies of distruction and death or pain and suffering. If it were such a stress free, easy job, I'm sure that many other people would participate to have this "hero" status that you're concerned with stripping from those who are willing to take the chance of giving everything to help someone they've never seen before. All to possibly get a thank you...If they are lucky enough to even get that.

      Shane A.
      CT State Cert. Firefighter I
      Paramedic Student

      There was much discussion with regard to this article on a popular firefighting website (www.firehouse.com). The link to the discussion about this matter is http://cms.firehouse.com/forums2/sho...hreadid=54196. In this forum discussion, Mr. Gantenbein even replies himself by saying:

      "I have NOTHING to do with Sports Illustrated, or its parent company. My articles there were written as an independent journalist, which I remain. So your attempts to "get even" by posting the SI and CNN information is pointless.

      Last edited by douggant on 11-03-2003 at 01:35 AM"

      The truth of the matter is that we, as firefighters and memeber of the emergency services, who protect the communities in which we serve were not attempting to "get even" as Mr. Gantenbein would like to believe. Firefighters have a lot of pride as a group, and the vast majority would not drop to the level of having to "get even." Instead, we are simply voicing our opinion about the inflamatory statements made by Mr. Gantenbein, as our side of the story certainly was not published by your production. I think that's pretty fair. Hopefully, you would agree.

      Part of what makes this great country of ours so incredible is the immense amount of freedom that we do have. Those freedoms do include Freedom of Speech. However, I feel that before making statements such as those presented in this article, Mr. Gantenbein should have spent some time riding with a multitude of departments to see what really does happen over the course of a shift. Then, and only then, could Mr. Gantenbein form a truely educated opinion about firefighters as a group.

      Maybe someday, when Mr. Gantenbein needs help from the emergency services, we will be too busy giving a tour of the firehouse, making some burgers for dinner, washing the truck or catching some sleep to respond in a timely matter to possibly save his property, or more importantly his life or the life of those that he loves. I know that won't happen though, because regardless of how we feel about this person, we have a duty to act. We will be there ready to help in any way possible, even if it were to mean giving our own life and having our families go on without us forever.

      Shane A.


      • Firefighter heroes

        There comes a time in many firefighters' lives (as well as armed service personnel) when the proverbial "sh--" has hit the fan and we find ourselves in a position that has become increasingly untenable and we actually fear for our lives. It is at this time we find out about ourselves - whether or not we have the "right stuff". Those of us who have been there know this. Those who haven't will never know what a hero is. I believe the author is in the latter category and should be ignored as just another uneducated voice pandering on the street.


        • One word sums it up nicely........

          I.A.C.O.J. Charter Member
          "Chet, get an inch and a half on that!"

          "Not for fame or reward,Not for place or rank. Not lured by ambition or goaded by necessity. But in simple obedience to duty as they understood it. These men suffered,sacrificed,dared all, and died. Let us never forget our fallen friends."


          • i've got something to say

            To say the ladder arch is tasteless, is infuriating. My father's funeral had a ladder arch, and for him to say this directly hits home, in the unlikely chance that he reads this, I would like for him to contact me so that I can have some words with him.

            Alan Brunacini, Fire Chief of the Phoenix Fire Department put out a short little something on "Organizational Foundations". Here's what he said: "We have inside language, rituals, ceremonies, rites of initiation, acceptance, passage, and EXIT".
            Also he said " We help our friends; we will defend ourselves against our adversaries---we have a long memory of both groups".

            Hope you sleep well tonight Mr. Gantenbein, your fire department is protecting you, laying their lives on the line for YOU, why? Because it's their job.

            Cody Baker
            Topsham, ME Fire Department


            • RE: Smoke and Mirrors

              In the beginning of the movie Against All Odds, Sully said it BEST.
              "I don't know anything about being a Sports Illustrated writer, but then again if I did, I wouldn't know _ _ _ _ about fighting fires!"


              • If you really want to show your anger at Ganterbein's article, follow the money. Contact Slate's advertisers, contact the publications for which this mutt writes and contact THEIR advertisers as well.

                We're not just brothers, we're consumers who spend money. Let these folks know of your displeasure with Ganterbein's antics and let them know that his antics reflect adversely on them and their products. Money talks...
                Tony Rowley
                Lansdowne PA USA


                • smoke and mirrors.

                  Where to start...I find it just amazing that this sorry bag of wind has nothing better to do than degrade the fire service. I am a proud member of a volunteer department where I live. I have had my share of bad things happen to me, blown out of buildings, falling through floors, falling through a roof and getting burned. I do this job 24/7 and 365 days a years.
                  I worked 22 weekends at the WTC, I met many guys from the FDNY, NYPD,
                  PAPD. Yea I have to say these guys are the heros, each and every one
                  of them that went into those towers that day (may God Bless thier souls). Each and everyone that searched all those nooks and crannies in hopes of find one live person. Yea they were heros.
                  All those EMS workers that stood by that day they were heros. The civilian that help a downed firefighter, he was a hero too.
                  I will say not every single firemen is a hero, but anyone that puts thier life on the line 24/7 365 days a year. Yeah they all are.
                  I am sorry to say, but someday this sorry sack of crap is going to
                  need to get his *** out of a sling and guess who is going to be there a H____.
                  I urge everyone that reads this go to slate.com tell this bag of s__t
                  what is on you mind. Tell all the advertisers on slate.com what you think about this also.

                  [email protected]

                  "God Bless the fallen members of the FDNY, thier families and Loved ones"
                  Please never forget 9/11


                  • So much anger....so little time

                    Contact the publisher?....Contact the advertisers?

                    Come on........you guys are wasting too much time on this. This guy had his own slanted and mis-guided opinion, and you know what?, I know a dozen folks in my Fire District who think just like he does. My job revolves around convincing those 12 idiots that we are not wasting taxpayer money, and we are here for their benefit and not our own.

                    You think I've got time to deal with everyone's ****y opinion. Nope, just those that affect my job.

                    We recently passed a levy to buy 4 new fire engines. I've had tons of people tell me how they voted yes to give us new engines. While it's nice that they voted yes, they need to get a clue and realize they just bought THEMSELVES 4 fire engines, and we are the caregivers for them.

                    Spend more time dealing with stuff that means something, and less time on this guy.

                    IACOJ.... "Carpe Elkhartem"
                    (Seize the Nozzle)

                    "Victorious warriors win first,
                    and then go to war,
                    while defeated warriors go to war first,
                    and then seek to win."

                    SUN TZU


                    • This guy is a Moron

                      Please my brother and sisters. The recent article about "Cushy" firefighters is from someone who cannot get a real job, is too lazy to find one, and has never crawled down a long hallway to reach an apartment above the fire. Ignore him. The more we react, the more publicity he gets. He is a spoiled child.


                      • There was a cartoonist, some time back, who depicted the 9-11 families as money grubbing, opportunists. For the life of me I cannot remember his name. For his 15 minutes he stirred up a lot of emotions and then faded away into obscurity. The same will happen to this inkster. But before he goes onto the heap, I want to afford myself one last comment:

                        This job, vocation, way of life, what ever it is, has made me what I am today. Before I found the fire service I was far short of the model citizen. I didn't become a firefighter to serve my fellow man, I did it for a thrill. After my first "good job" which was a thrill, something unexpected came over me. I cannot put it to words and don't need to. Most of you had the same experience.

                        Many have joined, few have left. Those few did not have it happen for them. Those that stayed will never lose it. If it wasn't in our blood from birth, it was burned into us at our first job. Nothing that can be written can change it, we will always respond, we will never ask why.

                        I will close with a quote from Christopher Siedenberg: "No matter what happens to me, it’s still the greatest job in the world." The following day he succumbed to injuries he sustained that day, March 28, 1994 at 62 Watts Street, Manhattan, NY.
                        Last edited by E229Lt; 11-04-2003, 08:56 PM.


                        • Here is a transcript of the email I sent this idiot, and the reply I got...what a jerk.

                          Another dose of self-pity from a firefighter. This is getting tiring.


                          To: [email protected]
                          Subject: RE your article on firefighters on Slate.com

                          Mr. Gantenbein,

                          I have just read your article entitled "Smoke and Mirrors" on Slate.com, and I must say in my 19 years as a career firefighter, I cannot remember being enraged by anything said about my chosen career as I was by your article. I agree with your contention that we are not heroes...I have never considered myself one; I merely enjoy doing my job and derive a great sense of satisfaction from doing it. I do, however, take great exeception to the cheap shots you took in your article. Cushy job? I work in a small city in south Georgia...I have been called to my mother's own house twice on EMS calls, once having to set my own emotions aside and perform rescue breathing on her. Sound real cushy to me. Retire at 20 years? Maybe where you live...I have to work a minimum of 30 years to retire, and can't draw retirement pay till 55. Boo hoo, you say, most people have to work until 65; can you imagine pulling hose until age 65 and still be able to do it well? And you r comments on the funeral of the four young firefighters..that was beyond low. Just because you do not respect the tradition of honoring those that each and everyone of us consider to be family members doesn't give you the right to insult it. I recently thumbed through your book at my local bookstore, and had considered purchasing it to read on an upcoming flight to New Jersey, but after reading your narrow-minded and mean-spirited article, it will be a cold day in Hell before I make any purchases that would put one cent earned at my "cushy" job in your pocket.

                          Good day

                          Chuck Yeargin


                          • Another dose of self-pity from a firefighter. This is getting tiring.dg

                            If this is so tiring then why is he here reading on the forums?


                            • Yes, his prose is inflammatory, but there is a significant amount of truth in what he writes.
                              Hang me out to dry, but personally, I tend to agree with a lot of his article content....


                              • This guy is one of those guys who cant see through the smoke.some of what we do may be corny.and some guys take things to far, but to all the guys that make the fire service what it is.Let the fire buffs have fun, if it makes them feel good I bet they earned the right some where.And to all the guys who bust there butts and say nothing.These are the people that know,a critic like this probaly cant wipe his *** with out checking the paper to see how he did. And if some one wiped it for him he would find somthing to complain about.
                                I bet this guy is a monday morning firefighter who never drew an honest sweat on the job with out bragging about it.
                                un fortunatly we have thease kinds of people among us.They just dont matter. But they always seem to get the coffe to the sean first and we always know were to find them. Sitting on the running board drinking coffee teling anyone who will listen how the fire should be fought.
                                Alls I can say to these kind of people, is keep the coffee coming and stay on the running board so you wont get hurt.
                                To all else remeber (sematarys are full of heros) so be carefull out there.


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