Tag Archives: first responders

Dispatchers aren’t paid to scold those in distress

Donna Reneau likely will need to find another line of work. It is my strong belief, certainly, that she should.

An Arkansas woman drowned when floodwaters overwhelmed her motor vehicle. She dialed for help and got a Fort Smith, Ark., Police Department dispatcher on the phone. The dispatcher, Reneau, said the department was being overwhelmed with emergency calls during a terrible storm in the region and that the caller, Debra Stevens, would have to wait for assistance.

Stevens begged Reneau to help her. Reneau’s response was to tell the woman to “shut up” and to scold her for driving into too-high water.

Holy crap, man!

Stevens drowned in her car waiting for help to get to her.

As for the conversation that ensued between the stricken motorist and the dispatcher, it has been recorded for the nation to hear. Reneau is no longer on the Fort Smith PD force; she resigned to, I must presume, “pursue other interests.”

I don’t know whether the delay was a direct result of the dispatcher’s crude, rude and crass behavior. The point, though, is that emergency dispatchers are hired and trained to deliver assistance and to deliver comfort to those who call for help.

From what I have seen and heard of what Donna Reneau delivered to the late Debra Stevens, she failed to do her job.

I see some intensive re-training for all dispatchers in northwest Arkansas in the future.

Trump signs important bill … but lies about its context

I was glad to see Donald Trump sign an important piece of legislation into law this week, the bill that extends medical assistance to 9/11 first responders for the next several decades.

He did so in a White House ceremony under bright sunshine. Sitting before him were many of the firefighters, medical personnel and police officers who rushed into the infernos — in New York and Washington — on that terrible morning nearly 18 years ago.

But then …

Trump did something that has become almost a standard part of his performance as president of the United States. He sought to insert himself into an event in which he played no role. Perhaps you heard him during the bill-signing ceremony.

He talked about going to Ground Zero in Lower Manhattan, hobnobbing with the first responders. He said he was “there,” but refrained from calling himself a “first responder.”

In truth, Donald Trump was not there. Reports surfaced immediately after the ceremony from New York fire officials who disputed Trump’s assertion that he was present in the rubble where the Twin Towers once stood. He was nowhere in sight, they said.

Trump did call a New York media outlet to tell reporters that Trump Tower was the tallest building in the city once the World Trade Center collapsed from the damage caused by the hijacked jetliners crashing into the towers.

This is the kind of behavior that is utterly reprehensible, so blatantly phony that it defies my ability to comprehend how this man gets away with it … time and again! I mean, for crying out loud, he didn’t even lift a finger to win congressional approval of the bill he signed into law.

He once claimed falsely that he watched “thousands and thousands of people cheer” while the Twin Towers burned and fell on 9/11. He said he lost “many friends” in the towers. Now he says he was present at Ground Zero while police, firefighters and medical officials did their grim job. He lied every single time.

This man cannot cease making himself part of whatever story is being told, no matter how tragic. A president needs to exhibit compassion, empathy and authentic humanity in these times. Donald Trump is utterly, categorically incapable of demonstrating any of those traits.

The president showed us yet again his absolute unfitness for the job.

Sen. Paul approves big tax cut, but blocks 9/11 relief bill

Let me see how this works.

U.S. Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky was among the Republicans who voted for Donald Trump’s big tax cut in 2018, the one that helped a lot of rich folks and, oh yes, helped run up the national debt to its current level of $22 trillion.

Then the senator this week has blocked a bill to reinstate a relief bill aimed at helping 9/11 first responders battle ailments caused by the terrible terrorist attack on this country. Paul’s rationale is, shall we say, ironic to the point of hypocrisy.

He said the country’s debt is too steep. We need to find spending cuts to pay for the relief package, he said.

Hold on! But … Sen. Paul, your vote on the tax cut helped roll up that national debt! The debt has skyrocketed because you and your Senate colleagues along with the president wanted to slash taxes for wealthy Americans.

I should point out, too, that the 9/11 relief initiative got national attention because of the fiery and emotional testimony delivered by comic Jon Stewart (pictured with this post), sitting alongside first responders suffering from life-threatening illnesses.

This is disgusting in the extreme, Sen. Paul.

Can’t this guy run for high office?

The more I hear from Jon Stewart the more I like, respect and admire him.

He’s a comedian, a writer, a producer. He’s also become an advocate for 9/11 first responders who have been caught in a legislative sausage grinder. Congress has until just recently failed to renew a 9/11 first responders emergency fund. A House committee recently voted unanimously to provide an extension for the fund, but only after Stewart tossed aside his prepared remarks and reamed the members for their inaction, their cowardice and their insensitivity toward those who rushed into the fire on that terrible day.

Those police officers, firefighters, medical personnel and civilians are paying the price. They are dying of 9/11-related ailments. Stewart has taken up their cause.

This past Sunday, Stewart appeared on “Fox News Sunday,” and was asked by host Chris Wallace to respond to those who say the federal government should cede that assistance to the states, that the cost was greater than the feds could afford.

Wallace teed the question up perfectly for Stewart, who then proceeded to hit it out of sight.

He responded, “What about Pearl Harbor?” He said such a notion is as ridiculous as suggesting that the military attack against the United States in December 1941 should be a “Hawaii problem.” He said that the terrorists committed an act of war against this nation on 9/11 and, therefore, that makes it an urgent national priority.

I cannot stop believing that Wallace knew that his friend Jon Stewart would have a ready answer to that question and I also believe that Wallace appreciated — and likely agreed — with what his guest said in response.

I am left to wonder: Why isn’t this guy, Jon Stewart, running for high public office?

Another massacre, more heroes emerge

Ron Helus went to work Wednesday expecting to come home at the end of his shift.

Then gunshots burst in a nightclub in Thousand Oaks, Calif. He was talking to his wife when he got the call to respond. He told his wife he had to go, said he loved her and then rushed inside because the deputy sheriff was trained to respond in that manner.

Sgt. Helus, who engaged the gunman in a firefight, died a hero. He is among other heroes who have emerged in the hours after the latest mass shooting. Twelve people were slaughtered by the individual who walked into the country music bar and opened fire.

He was dead when police found him.

I heard this morning of male customers standing between the shooter and potential victims, providing human shields. These men, according to witnesses, were willing to sacrifice their lives to save those of others.

Sgt. Helus has delivered yet another example of first responder heroism. He was a 30-year veteran of the Ventura County Sheriff’s Department … and was scheduled to retire in just a few weeks.

Sgt. Helus is survived by his wife and an adult son.

This event, dear reader, provides yet another horrifying example of the sickness that has infected our society.

What in the world will it take to find a cure?

Sickening.

Today we honor the heroes

Heroes never seek to achieve their special status. Events are thrust upon them.

Seventeen years ago today, on a bright Tuesday morning, events occurred in this country that created heroes who were reacting instinctively. They sought to protect others’ lives against the harm that had arrived without warning.

Terrorists commandeered jetliners. They flew two of them into the World Trade Center’s Twin Towers, another one into the Pentagon, and a fourth jetliner crashed in Shanksville, Pa., after a titanic in-flight struggle between heroic passengers and the monsters who sought to crash that aircraft into the U.S. Capitol Building.

The date is now known simply as 9/11. You say “9/11” and everyone knows the date, what they were doing when they heard the horrific news.

I want to honor the heroes along with the victims today. The victims, nearly 3,000 of them, were simply going about their day. They were at work, they were in school, they were being cared for in day-care centers.

Terrorists acting in the name of some perversion of a great religion sought to strike at this nation. They awakened the fighting spirit of a proud people.

They produced heroes. They were the firefighters, police officers and medical personnel who ran into the burning buildings. They taught us the lessons of tried-and-true heroism.

Their legacy lives on to this day. It will live forever. Our nation should be grateful for all of eternity that they answered the call to their duty to serve the public.

Beautiful view … if only we could see it

MISSOULA, Mont. — Our drive today from West Yellowstone to Missoula was spectacular — or at least that’s what I’ll presume.

We couldn’t see much of what we understand is breathtaking mountain splendor.

Our 260-mile trek north and west was uneventful in important ways. We had no delays. Our truck performed perfectly. Our fifth wheel recreational vehicle followed along just as it is designed to do.

The obstruction to our sight-seeing while driving comes from smoke. Those wildfires that keep breaking out throughout the western United States are causing considerable havoc to those of us who want to enjoy the splendor the Almighty provides.

Do not misunderstand me. I am not going to bitch and moan about it Why? My inconvenience pales in comparison to the struggle being fought in those mountains, valleys and meadows by the firefighters who are thrusting themselves into harm’s way.

Our latest retirement trek will continue west before we head back home in a few days. I keep hearing about the smoke all along the way. I want it to clear out for totally selfish reasons, but also because — like all Americans — I want the firefighters to return home safely. Their children and spouses need them.

I won’t go too deeply into the climate change debate with this blog post. I’ll only re-state what I’ve believed for a good while: The weather is changing and we can expect more of these fires and more than likely they’ll arrive with increasing ferocity.

Millions more tourists just like my wife and me will be denied the chance to take in the view we know is out there … somewhere.

They come from all over to fight the fire

I never tire of saying good things about first responders.

The firefighters who at this moment are risking their lives — and in some instances losing their lives — deserve a good word today.

They are battling fire that is ravaging much of northern California. At last count (that I have heard) eight people have died from the fire. One of the blazes, the Carr fire, is believed to be the largest wildfire in California history.

What really doesn’t get nearly the attention it deserves, though, when these tragedies occur is the inter-state cooperation that occurs among firefighting organizations. Sure, the media report on it; they mention on TV news broadcasts that fire crews have rushed to the aid of the local firefighters.

My wife and I got a  taste of just how extensive these inter-state efforts can get. We visited Grass Valley, Calif., a year ago on our way north to Portland. We parked our fifth wheel at the Nevada County Fairgrounds and became acquainted with firefighters who had encamped at the fairgrounds, which they used as a base camp from which they would confront the fires.

One of the senior firefighters told us fire crews had come from 12 states to assist the locals in battling the blazes that were terrorizing communities all over California.

Indeed, the Texas Panhandle — which also is susceptible to wildfire — earlier this summer welcomed fire crews from as far away as Oregon to assist crews battling the range fires that have blackened many thousands of acres.

These men and women are heroes in every sense of the word. They surrender their lives in the comfort of their own communities to assist their colleagues. They thrust themselves into harm’s way to protect human beings, livestock and pets from the merciless blaze.

Such heroism is presenting itself yet again out west.

All of these individuals deserve a nation’s prayers as they keep up the good fight against Mother Nature’s fury.

Giving thanks once more for local heroes

I cannot say this enough, so forgive me if you have heard this before.

Our firefighters and other first responders continue to amaze me. I am grateful beyond measure for the work they do, the service they provide and the protection they provide to the community they swear to protect.

Some wildfires erupted west of Amarillo last night. The wind was merciless, relentless and unforgiving. The people who ran straight toward the potential danger kicked into high-gear action immediately.

Amarillo and Potter County fire crews were able to contain the blazes in fairly quick fashion.

It occurs to me that these folks are pretty damn good at this firefighting stuff. No, they’re real good at it.

We toss the “hero” term around a bit too loosely. We hang the label on athletes. We’ve actually called actors over many years “heroes” because they portray them on film or TV. I prefer the term “role model” to describe athletes’ public standing. I’ll leave that discussion at that.

As for actual heroes, they work for us, for you and me. They are public servants. Some of them don’t even get paid for their heroism. They are the volunteer firefighters who often serve in the rural communities surrounding Amarillo. They have day jobs but choose to respond when the fire alarm goes off — at which time they rush into harm’s way.

They do this to protect us. They shield us from the dangers that fire presents. These days that danger is heightened by the dual factors of high wind and lack of moisture. I cannot even remember the last time it rained in our community.

One more time — and it won’t be the final time — I want to extend a public thank you to the men and women who answer the call on our behalf. You are heroes. We all appreciate you.

Happy Trails, Part 84

My faith in our first responders remains strong.

They answered the call last night and fought some wildfires just west of Amarillo. The fire, fueled by howling wind and tinder-dry fuel, for a time threatened portions of the vast medical center way out yonder.

I awoke this morning and learned that the fires had been contained; no loss of life or even any injury. The wind is still brisk and the TV forecasters are telling us they’ll subside sometime this afternoon or evening.

It cannot settle down quickly enough.

Thank you, firefighters. You are heroes in every sense of the word.

***

There. That all said — with great sincerity and respect — I want to share a nasty “fantasy” I’m feeling.

The other evening, with the wind screaming just outside our RV, I had this nightmare scenario. We’re about a quarter-mile south of a high-speed freight rail line. Trains roar past us day and night. The TV weathermen and women tell us about the sparks generated by trains and the potential for starting fires.

The nightmare goes like this: We’re lying in bed. Someone knocks on our fifth wheel door. We open it. The park hosts tell us we have 10 minutes to vacate our spot and get as far away from an approaching fire that has just ignited along the rail line to our north.

Don’t laugh! Please!

I am now thinking it might be appropriate for my wife and me to come up with a 10-minute evacuation drill in case someone knocks on the door in the middle of the night.

Either that or we’ll pack it all up on our own time — and head to the next place.

The latter event is far more likely to occur than the first one.