Category Archives: LODD

The last letters are back

Looking through the traffic for this little blog I came across an old post getting more views than usual so I thought I’d put it back up here on the top for a little while.

 

Originally posted March 30, 2010.

The last letters you’ll ever write

“…

Today’s step is an important one, but in no way, shape or form should it be your first.

Tonight you are going to write a Line of Duty Death instructions sheet to your spouse and loved ones to read and follow only in the event of your death, at work.

This is different than your living will, which you all have now, right?

This is also different than any funeral arrangements you may have made or hope to make.

In the back of the Family Disaster Plan are two important sets of instructions.  The first is the Line of Duty Injury instructions sheet.

This gives my wife a list of phone numbers at Headquarters as well as who to ask for at the firehouse, “the Captain” and “Daywatch” to get someone who can tell her more about what may have happened to me if she is indeed notified that I am injured on the job.

The last time I got hurt no one called her because I was treated and released so quickly.  But if it happens again and she gets a phone call in the middle of the night, she knows to take a deep breath and relax.  I know because that is how the instructions start.

Here is just a snippet to get you thinking about what to write in yours-

“Well, you got the phone call you’ve been dreading.  I understand you are upset.  If I got hurt I was in the wrong place at the wrong time.  We’ll worry about all that later, I need you to start thinking three hours ahead.  Each decision you make between now and this time tomorrow will set the pace for the coming week.  Take a deep breath and calm down.

I’ll wait.

Good.

Goto the closet and get one of my work T-Shirts or sweatshirts and wear it when you come to see me.  Be honest if folks ask if you need anything.  Take their help.  They need to help as much as you need it.”

It will get emotional when you prepare them for what they might see when a firefighter is injured in the line of duty.  Be honest.  If you dance around topics now it will only create confusion at the most improper time.  End the letter by reminding them that even though you are hurt, it could be worse.

Now, while an emotional wreck, excuse yourself and be alone for a bit and HAND WRITE the next letter – Line of Duty Death Instructions.

This letter is the one they will keep and read over and over and over after you are gone.  Tell them about why you did what you did or chose this job, profession, occupation, place to volunteer.  Sign it, seal it in an envelope and put it in the back of the Disaster Plan.

On the same day, make plans to open the letter the day after your retirement.  Perhaps someplace tropical.

Do it now or regret it later, your choice.

HM”

 

365 Days

 


BOX 8155

10:44am Thursday, June 2nd, 2011

LODD – Lt Vincent Perez – Engine 26
Perez - Badge

LODD – FF/PM Anthony Valerio – Engine 26

Valerio - Badge

Click HERE to learn more about these brave men

In Remembrance…

Special thanks to the men of OCFA Engine Co 26

Brendan Vaccaro Photography

and a remarkably well raised young man

364

Time for bed. They need to get up early to report for duty in the morning.  The obligatory, half asleep “be safe” may await them.

 

Tonight they close their eyes.

 

Tomorrow will be their last sunrise;  Their last cup of coffee with their brothers.

 

Tomorrow…by the time you read this it may already be too late.

 

I miss you Tony.  I miss you Vince.

 

10 House “Still Standing”

Each year I choose 1 story to share in an effort to keep alive the memory of those who died. Buying a sticker or a T-shirt that says “Never Forget” isn’t enough, heck it’s nothing. Learning about the lives of those who went into that morning not knowing if they would be coming out and sharing their stories with others is the only way to remember and keep them alive in our hearts.
I used to think the ancient Egyptians were foolish for claiming they were going to live forever, yet we still speak their names and honor their traditions in our museums and textbooks. They truly did accomplish living forever and if we want these men to be remembered in the same way we must continue to share their stories and speak their names aloud.
In my search for a story to share about those who died on September 11th, I kept coming back to a number: 10.  10 years, 10 Engine, Ladder 10…10 House…

A firehouse is much like a family and when a member of a family dies it can have an impact on the survivors. But what if more than 1 dies? Or 2. What about 6?

This year I share the memories of 10 House and the day she lost 6 of her children.

 

10 House is the quarters of Engine 10 and Ladder 10 who, in 1984, adopted the logo of a firefighter straddling the tops of the twin towers on fire reading “First due at the big one.” And they were.  Reports from survivors say that even as they rolled out the door there were already bodies in the street.
The firehouse is on Liberty Street directly across the street from the World Trade Center. The house survived the collapse and was re-opened after getting fixed up, but her family is still healing.
Both companies were established in 1865, later moving to the same house.  It is one of the few houses where the engine and ladder companies happen to have the same numbers. For almost 150 years she saw only 3 deaths in the line of duty, on that September morning the number would triple.

Lt. Gregg Arthur Atlas – Aged 44 years, Lieutenant Engine 10

Firefighter Paul Pansini – Father of 3 children, Firefighter Engine 10

Lt. Stephen Gary Harrell – Age 44, Member of 10 House assigned to Battalion 7

Sean Patrick Tallon – 26, Marine Reservist and only weeks away from completing Probationary status on Ladder 10.

Jeffrey James Olsen – Age 31, Firefighter Ladder 10

James J. Corrigan – Retired Captain from 10 House, oversaw Fire and Safety Operation for the WTC complex

 

The house was a gathering point for those wishing to visit the FDNY to offer their condolences.  Like many houses it was covered with patches and shirts from visiting firefighters, letting the members know they were in others’ thoughts.  A beautiful memorial was erected inside dedicated to the 6 members who died and included was a newer plaque honoring the 3 that had fallen between 1867 and 2000.

10 House became the site of a 56 foot bronze relief sculpture donated by Holland & Knight , a Law Office, who lost  employee Glenn J. Winuk, also a volunteer firefighter, when 10 House lost her children.  The relief was dedicated in 2006 and is the only 9/11 related site on my list of things to see when I visit New York later in the month.

I don’t want to see where 10 House lost, I want to see where she lives on.

You can learn more about 10 House on their excellent website.

2009′s memory

2010′s memory

A Tip of the Helmet – Literally

South of San Francisco, as the funeral procession for Vince Perez and Tony Valerio weaved along, countless thousands of people took time out of their day to say goodbye.

I recently posted a video of the procession, but a video making the rounds on facebook stopped me dead in my tracks and made me cry like a…well…six year old.

It is another video of the funeral procession, but has a very important story to tell all it’s own.

I’m sure this young man’s parents had no idea they would be inspiring those who had lost a lot of momentum in life, just shooting some video to remember how their son reacted to a firefighter’s funeral. How did he react?

Well, he got his coat and helmet and stood at attention and saluted the engines as they passed by.

My brother from another mother, MotorCop, messaged me soon after sharing it and told me we needed to reach out to whoever posted the video and let them know what an impact it was having. So we did. And we heard back today:

Hello MC & Justin,

Thank you so much for your comments on my Youtube video of the SFFD funeral procession with the little boy & for reaching out to us. That is such a thoughtful and generous thing you would like to do but I have to tell you, his father (my husband) is a firefighter who was on a post that day and I am a police officer and the little boy is our son. We felt it would be a learning experience for him to be a part of the funeral and to understand what those men sacrificed for people they didn’t even know. We wanted him to pay his respects, to experience the brotherhood, love and support for those real life heroes and their families. He is six years old and aspires to be a firefighter, then he wants to be on “mom’s team”and aspires to be a police officer then a medic on the ambulance so he can save and help people. Of course, we would be thrilled and honored with either.

We were equally moved by the overwhelming number of firefighters who saluted and waved at our son as well as the family members of the fallen firefighters who opened their windows to smile and take a photo. To know for that moment they were able to divert their thoughts away from their grief and feel the love, support and admiration we all have for their loved ones, is why we were there. To honor and support the fallen firefighters, their families and extended families of first responders.

We thank you all for your dedicated service and for reaching out to us. Words cannot express our sympathies and sadness for the San Francisco Fire Department and the families of the fallen firefighters. Thank you ALL!!!!!

No. No, thank you. I was having a hell of a time coming to terms with what has happened recently. Suddenly my thoughts would shift to how Vince and Tony died and I’d be frozen, unable to speak, unable to feel, unable to express myself.
The video of the procession gave me some closure, but then I saw this.

And I felt better.

I saw the honor you have taught your son, and at a young age to understand it and stay waving that flag, salute never wavering…
I saw myself to be honest, and I’d imagine MC did too. Both our fathers were firemen and I’m sure he felt the same connection to this young man that I did.

They say some children have a wisdom beyond their years and it is seldom by accident or by chance. No, this child is an inspiration because he is more respectful than half the adults I know and that is a direct reflection on the quality parenting he is receiving.

I, like MC, wish more people took the time to share with their children the importance of family, honor and tradition.

I was ready to make this young man an honorary San Francisco FireFighter, but there is no need. Not only because of his family being already in the business, but because he already is. I’m sure that was handled by Vince and Tony on Friday.

Thank You…for 17 minutes

Watch this video recorded by Brandon Vaccaro Photography. Reposted with permission

San Francisco Firefighters Funeral Procession 6-10-2011 from BVP & 911Photographer.com on Vimeo.

Thank you…

To Brandon Vaccaro for recording this and posting it.
To the engines who came to the service. Of note, the first non-SFFD Engine, Orange County Fire Authority E26, the Angry Captain’s old digs.
To the folks who came to the service.
To the companies that came not to view the service, but grabbed their coats and helmets and worked with those of us unable to attend.
To the PD units who closed the roads and made sure there were no obstacles
To the people on the side of the road in San Francisco who not only took time out of their day to say goodbye to Vince and Tony, but threw flowers and never. stopped. clapping.

LODD #2

Earlier this morning word spread of the death of San Francisco Firefighter and Paramedic Anthony Valerio.  Tony, as many called him, was found inside a residential structure fire near deceased Fire Lieutenant Vincent Perez.

Tony was a friend of mine, my first medic partner when I was hired with the SFFD back in 2002.  We were assigned to the Richmond District and I clearly recall meeting him, his mustache and ponytail and thinking to myself “What have I gotten myself into?”

Tony’s laugh and sense of humor were infectious.  When you came in and found your name assigned to the medic unit, the sigh of frustration would immediately turn to a cheer when Tony’s name appeared directly beneath your own.

He was always quick with a story of traveling the world, cultures far away or just a little something from his weekends or days off kayaking or running.

I lost touch with Tony soon after the Department shifted from 24 hour ambulances to 10 hour ambulances and we were all scattered into the wind assignments wise.  But every time I saw him he would make a point of talking to everyone at a drill or class and being genuinely interested in anything they had to say.

Yesterday, still coming to terms with the fact one of my co-workers was dead and another staring the grim reaper in the face, I could hear Tony’s voice in my head…speaking French.  He would switch from French to English, laugh, then shoot me an awkward smile as if to wonder if I had understood what he had said.  Then I heard the voice of my deceased Grandmother, who had a similar sense of humor and who would also often throw in a few words of French.  The two of them were having a conversation and it was driving me mad.  Then, when I realized it was me just coming to terms with Tony’s condition, I almost saw that smile of his again, then the voices were gone.

The San Francisco Fire Department has lost 2 brave men who didn’t get into this line of work for fame, fortune or selfishness, but because it was simply what they did.

BOX 8155 10:44am Thursday, June 2nd, 2011

LODD – Lt Vincent Perez – Engine 26

LODD – FF/PM Anthony Valerio – Engine 26

Calculated Risk and Letters in the Files

Before you get too excited to hear what I think about the politician and the ambulance company at the shooting scene, close the door and take a seat.
Before you go ripping into scene safety and how this guy has no idea what it is we do, take a deep breath.

Because half of you are hypocrites.

How many of you race lights and sirens without wearing your seat belts? According to NIOSH studies and reviews of fatal and non fatal ambulance accidents…HALF. Yes, half.
Half of you are not wearing your seat belts in your ambulance.

So when you complain that some politician thinks you are invincible and should go racing into an unsafe scene, I almost gag knowing full well HALF of you already do that on a daily basis. And for even more minor incidents than the one in the press.

Yes, this is a letter in YOUR file. Those of you not wearing your seat belts in the cab of the ambulance. Patient care in the back does not even enter into this or the data I’m finding, this is only about in the cab.

So many were so fast to jump on the politician, yet how many of you really pay attention to yourselves on a daily basis?
Worried about a wrinkled shirt? Can’t reach the radio? Go ahead, try to give an excuse for not wearing your seat belt, the same thing you preach about to unrestrained drivers at wreck scenes. You can’t. There is no excuse for not wearing your seat belt in the cab of the ambulance. None.

Then why is not wearing one killing so many EMS responders?

We’re not a stupid group, stubborn perhaps, but we seem to understand kinematics and mechanism of injury, at least to the point it guides our treatment, but to not apply those standards to our own flesh and blood is insane.

Stop shaking your head and muttering that you already do wear it. Half of you are lying. Lying to yourselves.

I’ve had enough. You have made me unHappy.

Buckle up. I’m getting annoyed reading these studies about line of duty deaths and the lack of a simple click that could have made a difference. And if you are a LODD from not wearing a seat belt, should it really be a Line of Duty Death or should it be renamed Lack of Due Diligence?

Medic 49 Victor responding

FDNY*EMS Ambulance 485 was the first EMS unit assigned to what Battalion 1 reported as “An aircraft into the Twin Towers.”

This unit, on air as Medic 49 Victor,  was staffed by Battalion 49 Paramedics Carlos Lillo and Roberto Abril.

Roberto chronicled the events of that day in a notebook in his own hand.  The notes can be seen at the website of his partner, who died in the collapse, Carlos Lillo.com

He is one of the EMS Division casualties included in the “343 Firefighters” killed that morning.

From the website:

On September 11, 2001 we lost our beloved FDNY Paramedic Carlos Lillo from Battalion 49, doing what he did best, Saving Lives. Carlos was one of the most admired paramedics in New York City. Carlos showed his courage, dedication, and unwavering commitment to the people of our city, state, and nation with the ultimate sacrifice.

Carlos began his career as a volunteer at Astoria Volunteer Ambulance Corp. in the early eighties, where he went to EMT school. He worked for Associated Ambulance while awaiting his dream and passion to work for NYC EMS. This dream came true in 1984 and it took very little time before Carlos flourished as an EMT, working on a tactical unit in some of the toughest neighborhoods in the Bronx in some of the busiest times the EMS system has ever seen. He then realized another dream: becoming a paramedic. He spoke so passionately about not just being a medic but being the best paramedic, that one couldn’t help but be inspired by his attitude even the old time medics.  Carlos worked for many services within the 911 system where he was loved and respected by all for his professionalism and passion for what he did.

There is a grief that can’t be spoken when you lose someone like Carlos. It is our duty to carry on the tradition of excellence that Carlos lived and to keep his memory alive. Carlos leaves behind the love of his life wife Cecilia, mother Ilia, sisters Iliana and Olga , his brother Cesar and half-brother Alex.

It is in honor of this great paramedic and person that we formed “The Carlos Lillo Memorial Scholarship Fund” to benefit underprivileged students.  Every year we come together to celebrate Carlos during The Carlos Lillo Memorial Golf Outing which was formed to support the scholarship fund with the purpose to help those that want to be and do what he did for us.

Carlos was laid to rest September 14th, 2002.

Hidden in all the “Never Forget”and “343″ stickers and T-shirts are thousands of tales of heroism and bravery, brotherhood and citizenship. Learn one. Pass it along to others.

Please visit the site and learn more about Carlos and how you can help keep his dreams alive.

2009′s story to remember