Wednesday, September 10, 2008



(Sept.10, The Bronx, NYC) By whatever objective or subjective measures are utilized, September 10, 2001 was, for most people, an ordinary day. This city teeming with millions of residents, workers, visitors, tourists and Lord knows what else, was up and running at its usual pace, beating in its usual rhythm. This was true simply because New Yorkers expect a certain degree of inconvenience, disorder, mayhem and commotion as part of daily life. Aspects of daily life within this 326 square miles of concrete, asphalt and structures of every type and height that would appall most non New Yorkers and amaze all tourists, is part of the DNA of natives. If you are not born and bred, if you are not “from” this place, you can never be “of” it.

Each 24 hour cycle in this city has its share of assaults on the senses, ample opportunity for confusion, mischief and snafus. Steam pipes explode, subways stop suddenly in dark tunnels, the squeal and whine of ambulance, police and fire truck sirens is usually an unobtrusive component of the background throbbing heart beat of this unique place.

Each day a cop, fireman or EMT goes to work, each call they respond to while on duty initially contains an element of the unknown. The majority of calls are routine, or, at least New York routine. This does not eliminate that moment when the first call is received, the first alarm bells chime or the first citizen flags down a police car when, anything might be happening. That moment of the initial unknown is part adrenaline sometimes tinged with apprehension. Despite any mental or physiological reaction, regardless the amount of adrenaline that may be pumped into the blood, once engaged in the action, whatever it may be, reflexes, experience, training and self preservation as well as the preservation of those you work with, whose lives may depend on your ability to perform, becomes tantamount.

The vast, high-tech NYC 911 control center can log over 36,000 calls a day. This calls range from the trivial, mundane and banal to the urgent, hazardous and potentially fatal. No matter the call, no matter the City Service involved, every call prompts a response; a rapid response. The rapidity of the response might depend on the nature of the call. A guy who gets his arm stuck in his toilet while trying to unclog it is a lower priority than a heart attack, shots fired, building on fire or crime in progress. That’s just common sense prioritization mobilizing limited resources.

Seven year ago today there were approximately 40,000 cops and 11,000 firemen. Divide the number of cops by three shifts, subtract for guys on vacation, off sick, in court, injured or otherwise not on the streets and what do you come up with? This is the equation of having 100,000 people per precinct possibly policed at any given time by 20 to 25 cops. FDNY works a different tour still, the number of men assigned per unit is much smaller than anyone might realize.

Despite the gaping disparity between citizens and Members of Service (MOS), life goes on, things get done, order is restored, folks are transported to hospitals, arrests are made, fires extinguished: things, whatever those “things” might be, are dealt with efficiently – routinely.

And then came the tomorrow of seven years ago.

The definition of ordinary, normal and routine was forever dramatically altered for all New Yorkers and, in particular, arguably, for all MOS.

Over the course of the intervening years, a new “normal” has risen just as a stream will alter its course when a boulder appears as an obstacle. It takes time but it happens. It happens at different paces for different people. It comes a bit more easily for some than others.

New training methods, new plans, new MOS, new tactics and new equipment have replaced what was lost seven years ago tomorrow. Those were the items that could be replaced. The most valued, human life cannot be replaced. How many thousands of lives have been altered that seven years ago today were routine? Who can calculate such a number? The families of the deceased, the survivors, their families and everyone who was there, in NYC that day: all having to have found their own new normal.

911 calls continue unabated and have since then. NYPD, FDNY, EMS and PAPD have taken their blows and, in there new ordinary function as they did seven years ago today. The only difference being, that initial moment of the unknown, that first blast of adrenaline lingers a few seconds longer – than they act, do what they always have and always will, anonymously, for the same reasons. Tradition. It carries a certain weighty burden while conversely providing a shield of comfort.

But, every MOS knew that long before the tomorrow of seven years ago today.


FDNY 343


Rest in Peace.

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