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Resampled_2014-09-25_09-25-40_119This year my local fire department reaches a pretty impressive milestone. 125 years of service to Derry Borough and the surrounding areas. With the economy tanking and everything costing more, being able to operate a fire department and keep it above water is a paramount task in itself. There are a number of departments in Western Pennsylvania with a rich, long history, but not all have been around for 125 years.

The following is the history of the Derry Volunteer Fire Company history. If you see one of the guys, tell them thank you for their service. Now, read on and see from which the humble beginnings the fire company began.
In the Beginning
In 1889 a 35-year-old local merchant and Borough Council member, H. Johnston Neal, stood before the Governing Body and stressed the need for a trained volunteer fire service in town. Derry Borough was experiencing rapid growth and had experienced several major structure fires as well. At that time Mr. Neal would never imagine the organization he proposed would grow into the modern municipal firefighting service of today as represented by the Derry Volunteer Fire Department.
Derry’s development was accelerated by the location of a major service terminal here by the Pennsylvania Railroad. The influx of railroad personnel brought about the construction of several boarding houses and hotels, many of these very substantial in size.
Neal’s suggestion was met with favor and he was encouraged to head the efforts leading to the formation of the borough fire company. He gathered 6 interested townsmen to lay the organizational groundwork. The founding group consisted of; Lawrence A. Fisher, D. Loy Shirley, George H. Henderson, James M. Leaf, Herman Horner and James F. Conley. Their efforts and hard work lead to the formation of the Derry Volunteer Fire Company.
Under the leadership of the industrious Chief Neal, the newly organized Derry Fire Company went about the business of building a substantial membership roster and firefighting gear.
The late Lawrence Fisher, a founding member and the first secretary, said that it was decided to build the membership up to 16 men residing on each side of the railroad. Within a short time 32 men were enrolled under Chief Neal, making the first full personnel of the Derry Fire Company.
Physical stamina was the prime requirement for volunteers at that time. The task of running full speed with the heavy, bulky carts, particularly with the streets in town, and then to fight a fire once on the scene was physically demanding. Fisher described the selection process for Company membership. Muscle and brawn were the prime necessities and members were selected with that in mind. Even with the crude fire equipment of 1889 the firefighters took great pride in their efficiency. Fisher recalled an alarm in the early years of the Company. There was a shed fire on South Ligonier Street and after making the two-block run they had water on the fire only 4 ½ minutes after the alarm sounded. Even today that is considered a fast response.
While the recruitment of new members met with huge success, the acquiring of equipment was a different story altogether. Borough Counsel, while lending moral support, provided very little in the way of monetary support. Fisher recalled that no one was interested in giving money to firemen. They had great difficulty in getting counsel to even purchase 250 feet of hose. Even after becoming established, the volunteers still had a difficult time raising money needed to keep the company in operation.
The determination of the Company was too great to meet with defeat and the volunteers overcame the money obstacle. Along with a loan from Chief Neal, the Company raised the funds needed to purchase a hose cart, hose and other needed tools and equipment. All varieties of fund-raising were undertaken, including sponsoring local appearances by traveling shows and entertainment troops. The annual Firemen’s Street Festival would soon become the major summer social event for the town.

Much of the early company history is unknown. With the passage of time the founding members have long been deceased and most of the information from the formative years became lost. However, from the few records that have been preserved, history gained from recorded recollections of era firemen and newspaper articles, the birth and maturity of the Borough Company, although sketchy, can be traced. Somewhere along the century existence of the Fire Company the founding year erroneously became established as 1892, three years later than the true date. The historical error only came to light in 1987 with the revelation of an article from the Latrobe Bulletin in 1939 pertaining to the Fire Company’s 50th anniversary. The article not only fixed the year as 1889, it also gave first-hand insight into the dedication and preservation of Derry’s pioneer volunteer firefighters.
Neal not only provided the much-needed leadership for the organization of the fire company, he also provided financial backing. In recognition of his tireless efforts, he would become the Company’s first fire chief. He held the position until 1900 but continued an active role for many years thereafter. Ironically, a large commercial building constructed by Neal at the corner of East Second Avenue and North Chestnut Street, later known as the Lattanzio Building, would be destroyed by fire in 1967 in one of the largest fires in the Borough’s history. Only through the diligent firefighting efforts by the department Neal founded, and assistance from neighboring fire units, the adjacent buildings were spared and greater losses prevented.

H Johnston Neal First Derry Chief

H Johnston Neal
First Derry Chief

Bucket Brigades
Prior to the formation of the Borough’s Fire Company, the community, first in the Derry Township Village of Derry Station and later incorporated borough, relied on the efforts of the populace to fight fires. All too often their efforts were met with failure and total property loss. Lacking a public water system in the Borough’s infancy, firefighting was limited to bucket brigades with streams and  private wells providing a water source. With the completion of the Pennsylvania Railroad through Westmoreland County in 1852, a combination freight and passenger station was erected and the stop called Derry Station. This gave rise to the most prominent railroad town in the country. By the mid to late 1880’s, Derry had become a major railroad terminal and divisional headquarters.
A progressive step in fire protection came about when the railroad located a hand-operated pumper in town to protect many of the servicing and administrative structures. Railroad officials and other workers provided the manpower to fight fires on railroad property and townsfolk joined in for blazes elsewhere in the community. The PRR apparatus carried no hose, its purpose, to draw water from wells and other sources. Bucket Brigades still remained the primary source for getting water on the fires.
With the completion of the town’s water system and the availability of hydrants, the railroad hand pumper passed from use, the date and the carts fate remain unknown, and was replaced by a large two-wheeled hose cart housed at the PRR Engine house.
The cart, believed to have been assembled by local railroad personnel, utilized large diameter wagon wheels. The cart carried several hundred feet of 2 ½ inch hose, a number of nozzles, axes and other basic fire equipment and also a large, heavy ladder.

The Town Fire Whistle
Alerting Firefighters to an alarm has always been a priority. Even in its infancy, Derry had the most effective signal. At the first cry of fire, a railroad worker would begin blasts on the nearest locomotive whistle. As other railroaders picked up on the signal, locomotives working about the yard and engine house joined in a steady increasing blare heard for miles around.
Use of locomotive whistles to alert the fire company continued until 1909 when Borough Council authorized the Fire Company to purchase a whistle to be used as the town’s exclusive fire call. The whistle had its own distinctive sound, alternating between high and low pitches so it could be distinguished from locomotive whistles. Originally a steam whistle, it was later converted to air.
The introduction of a telephone system sped up the process of alerting the Fire Company. Before the phone system it was necessary to get word to the railroad engine house, the location of the whistle, to sound the alarm. This created a delay in in firefighter response. With the phone system in place, the operator would take a call for help and contact the engine house clerk’s office. The phone exchange operators continued to take calls until 1938 when the phone dial system was introduced in Derry. The central office ceased using operators and a fire alarm system was established at the railroad’s DR tower.
For nearly 40 years, DR Tower operators activated the fire call signal. Upon the tower closing, fire calls were handled by Latrobe Borough Police dispatchers. They too would be eliminated and since then, the 911 system of Westmoreland County has received calls and activated the Company’s whistle through the use of electronic tones.
With the closing of the Railroad service terminal, the original whistle would be relocated from the PRR engine house to the Westinghouse plant. The old reliable whistle remained in service until the implementation of an electronic siren in 1967.

The first Dedicated Derry Fire Whistle

The first Dedicated Derry Fire Whistle

Pennsylvania Rail Road Fire Unit
An informal railroad department under the command of Chief Ford was organized and would later come into conflict with the Borough fire contingent. Although primarily formed to fight fire on PRR property, the PRR crew would respond to town fires and for a time, this created no problems with the borough Fire Company. The PRR crew remained a major contributor to the borough’s fire protection until 1919 when a simmering feud brought about Borough Council action virtually restricting the PRR crew to railroad property. The PRR crew was accused of delaying the sounding of the borough fire whistle to give themselves a head start to the fire scene to “claim” the nearest hydrant.
Counsel ordered the railroad company not to respond to fires in town unless called to assist by the Municipal Company. The last known response was in 1924 for a blaze which destroyed the Baptist Church located on West 2nd Avenue near Hays St. The PRR hose cart is now on display in the Derry Fire Department Museum.

Uniforms; A Symbol of Pride
During the Company’s early years, the bulk of the membership was drawn from merchants and other tradesmen because of their availability during the day. Many were prominent citizens of the town.
Pride of membership in the newly organized Fire Company was exhibited by the adoption of a colorful fireman’s uniform, traditional in that time. The shirt consisted of red flannel with a large brass-buttoned bib of yellow flannel on which were the letters “DFC”. It was worn at company and community events. On his death in 1900, Samuel Wadsworth, described as one of the most enthusiastic members, was buried in his fireman’s uniform.
A change in uniform came in 1910 with the adoption of black, standard fire department attire of the 1900’s. Having joined the Pennsylvania firemen’s association in that year, the company showed off its new uniforms by participating in the 1910 Firemen’s Convention Parade in Altoona. Some 24 members, accompanied by local Fire Department’s Drum and Bugle Corps participated.

The new black uniforms

The new black uniforms

Firemen’s Convention Parade – Altoona – 1910
This was the first of many state parades for the Company in the ensuing years, traveling as far as east York. The trips were made by train and trolley car as the early mode of transportation. Derry became a member of the Western Pennsylvania Firemen’s association in 1897. The Company would later become a charter member in Westmoreland County Firemen’s Association formed in 1938.

The Ladder Wagon and the Horse Era
Already using hose carts, the modernization of the Derry Fire Company continued. The hand-pulled hose carts were augmented my large, horse-drawn hose wagons. The first made its appearance around 1895. The hose wagon enabled firefighters to carry large quantities of hose over the hand carts and also provided a quicker response to distant locations. In 1897, the Company added a ladder wagon. The apparatus was handmade by Albert Shean, a blacksmith and Fire Company member. The ladder wagon, known as the hook and ladder, became not only the pride of the Company, but the community as well. Old timers recalled it was the finest rig in the area at the time. Pulled by two horses, the ladder wagon carried hose, two ladders and several firemen.
A borough-owned building at the corner of West 2nd and North Chestnut Streets served as the Company’s newest fire house with the introduction of horse-drawn apparatus. The Kearney Livery Stable nearby quartered the fire horses. Company meetings took place on the second floor of the new station. When the Westinghouse Corporation expanded its employee parking lot, the fire station was torn down.
The late John C. Cullen, who joined the company in 1901, described the efficiency of volunteers responding to alarms during the horse-drawn era. Upon the sounding of the alarm, the horses were trained to quickly back into the station and harnesses suspended from the ceiling dropped for hitching. In a matter of minutes the rigs were ready to respond. The horses could only be used for pulling the fire apparatus because they would become excited and prance and the sound of the alarm.
The galloping horses can still be recalled by some town elders. It was one of the more dramatic eras for the Company and one of the more dangerous as well. The rigs had no breaks and on more than one occasion, overturned rounding corners. The horses were difficult to control in their fire-run excitement.

The End of an Era
Although the exact date of the demise of horse-drawn rigs is unknown, it would appear that around 1914 the Fire Company elected to return to hand-pulled hose reels. In that year Borough Council authorized the purchase of fully equipped hand carts and also the first smoke protectors.
The final fate of the prized hook and ladder is not known but the hose wagon remained with the Company for occasional appearances until around 1950. Due to its deteriorated condition, the rig found its way to a scrap yard, the last remembrance of a by-gone era of firefighting in Derry.
With the return of hose carts, the Company membership was again divided into a two-unit organization. Firemen from the north side of the tracks manned the reel location at the second street house. Those living on the south side were assigned to the second reel, housed in a building on the present Municipal Building lot.
Derry’s volunteer firefighters battled a number of major fires during the early years. Among those given mention in company records include a fire at the Shear Hotel that destroyed the building in 1895, Keffer Flour Mill and an adjacent house in 1899 and the Pennsylvania Sand Company crusher building at the southern edge of town in the early 1900’s. Fire struck the Italian Grocery Company in Second Ward on March 14, 1916, causing damages exceeding $21,000 and damaged an adjacent warehouse.

Onward and Upward
Derry’s first steps with moving into the era of motorized fire apparatus came in May of 1912 when a committee was assigned to find out prices of different types of motorized trucks. Six years passed before a committee of 3 members was formed to purchase a new truck. In June 1920, Latrobe Fire Department brought a fire truck to Derry for a demonstration. Finally on June 15, 1921, Derry Fire Company purchased its first motorized engine; a Howe Triple Combination built on a Model T chassis. Borough Counsel contributed $1000 towards the $3,470 price tag.

1921 Howe Triple Combination

1921 Howe Triple Combination

1921 Howe/Model T Pumper
Organized initially to serve the residents of Derry Borough, the Fire Company’s response area would expand greatly to benefit the citizens of a large portion of Derry Township. Use of hand-pulled carts in the early days made it a physical impossibility to respond to alarms of any great distance from the fire station. That changed with the purchase of the 1921 Howe Pumper. The coverage area increased to include areas of Derry Township immediately surrounding the Borough.
With the company moving forward, the need to expand the membership resulted in the opening of the roster to allow for membership of 75, 25 from each of the existing 3 wards. On September 23, 1920, 32 members were accepted, a record that still stands today.
Talk with the Borough Counsel began in 1913 as to the need for a new station. The Counsel was approached in 1914 to lease a borough-owned lot on 2nd Avenue for the erection of a fire station. Progress continued at a slow pace but Council informed the firemen in 1917 they would build a suitable building for a fire truck if one is purchased. With the arrival of the Howe pumper in October of 1921, a shanty-type frame building on the Borough lot on East 2nd Avenue served as engine quarters.
Continued Fire Company efforts leading to new fire quarters finally moved into action and in 1929 the Borough and the Fire Company signed an agreement calling for the erection of a municipal building at a cost of $30,000; each would contribute $15,000.
The town’s municipal building was completed in August of 1930. Considered an outstanding municipal building facility in its time, the building provided the Borough government with council chambers, mayor’s office and town lockup along with a community meeting room. The firemen’s long-sought goal was realized after a 17 year wait.
The municipal building-fire station on East 2nd Avenue has undergone extensive renovations over the years to meet the ever-increasing array of equipment of the Fire Company, including a large rear addition in 1956.
The Fire Company changed its name in 1923. Originally organized as the Derry Volunteer Fire Company, its designation became the Derry Volunteer Fire Company with incorporation as a Pennsylvania non-profit corporation that year.

Better Engines Purchased
Firefighters again became interested in purchasing another fire truck in 1927 after experiencing problems with their Howe Pumper. The 1921 engine, when carrying its hose load and manpower lacked power for the steeper hills in Derry and at times had to be operated in reverse to climb the hilly streets.
At a meeting May 7, 1929, the company awarded a bid to American LaFrance for a type 92 pumper with a 600 gallon-per-minute capacity at a cost of $8,750, minus a $1,000 trade in value of the Howe Pumper. The Engine was delivered in August of 1929.

1929 American LaFrance Type 92 Pumper

1929 American LaFrance Type 92 Pumper

1929 American Lafrance Engine
The purchase proved to be a wise one. For 40 years the American LaFrance Engine saw service and most of the time was the “First Out” piece of the department. It proved it’s dependability in 1952 pumping several hours consecutively at the Derry Township High School fire.  The response area increased to further points in the Township with the arrival of the larger American LaFrance Engine in 1929. Soon the Derry firefighters would provide sole fire protection for an area of Derry Township extending from the crest of the Chestnut Ridge to what became Keystone State Park and from eastern Bradenville to the Hillside-Gray Station area. Calls to the township would soon outnumber Borough calls many times over. For 30 years the Derry Volunteers provided exclusive service to this nearly 70 square mile area until the organization of the Bradenville Volunteer Fire Department.
The Company’s 3rd truck purchase came in 1939 with the addition of an International, 500 gallon-per-minute Engine, bought for a price tag of $6,822. The newest apparatus gave the Company the much-needed hose carrying capability and eliminated the need of maintaining the reel carts for supplying additional hose when required at fire scenes. In addition, the International Engine carried a full complement of ladders up to 55 feet in length.

1939 International Engine

1939 International Engine

1939 International Engine
With 2 pumpers in service a 1927 S&S Ambulance followed in 1940 seeing service as both an equipment and personnel carrier.
The most serious accident in the Company history occurred in April of 1942 on a false alarm in the village of Peanut. The International Engine was responding to the late night alarm when they encountered an icy patch on the old overhead bridge. The Engine failed to make the sharp turn and crashed through the inner pedestrian guard rails and finally came to rest with the front end hanging over the bridge edge and East 2nd Street 20 feet below. Ten firefighters on board escaped injury.

Increasing Alarms and Duties
In the beginning, the Derry Volunteer Fire Department responded to the occasional alarm. As the town grew and the service territory increased so did the alarm responses and the duties of the volunteers.
During the war years of 1941-1945 the Fire Company provided the foundation for building an effective community Civil Defense program. With the Fire Company membership depleted due to the war, younger members, auxiliary firemen, augmented the regular ranks. Air raid drills were as routine as other Civil Defense preparedness exercises. Aside from regular fire protection duties, the Company membership also contributed much time and effort to the various home-front patriotic efforts ranging from street patrols during residential solicitations for national causes to assisting in scrap metal drives. Civil Defense was not taken lightly locally since both Pittsburgh and Latrobe were on the known enemy target list.

1953 Federal Engine – Refurbished by the Federal Civil Defense Agency
By the 1960’s, Derry’s fire personnel were responding to an excess of 100 alarms annually. This trend continued to climb higher and higher and the company responses are well over 200 alarms a year. The record high for one year stands at 327.
Alarm runs of many miles within the service territory are common as is mutual aid to neighboring departments. Derry firefighters have been called to different locations such as Latrobe, Ligonier, Blairsville, Greensburg, and Bolivar. The Johnstown flood of 1977 placed Derry on standby, with a crew and an Engine, for several days in Armagh, Indiana County.
Chief Neal and his fellow founding members could never have thought way back 1889, even in their wildest dreams, their effort would culminate into a Fire Company responding to hundreds of emergency situations each year or travel distances, frequently traveled in response of their duties.

1953 Federal Engine

1953 Federal Engine

Moving Ever Forward
The Derry Volunteer Fire Department today is equipped with the most modern and extensive array of gear and apparatus to meet the various emergency situations to which firefighter are now called upon to respond to. No matter if the call is for a structure fire, traffic accident with entrapment, brush fire, chemical spill or any other type of incident posing a threat to life or property, the Derry Volunteer Fire Department stands ready to respond any time, day or night.
The total replacement cost of all apparatus and ancillary equipment of the Fire Company stands in excess of 2 million dollars. The operating budget of the Fire Company grows every year reflecting the ever-increasing expenditures required to maintain the level of fire protection given to the citizens of the Derry community. Through generous support of the area residents over the years they have greatly aided the Department’s efforts to purchase new apparatus and equipment required to carry out the role of dedicated service to the community in time of emergency. An annual fund drive mailing along with other fund-raisers, along with a yearly appropriation from Borough Council are the main sources of revenue for the Fire Company. A huge contrast to present day sums required to maintain the company, minutes from the August monthly meeting in 1905 showed financial resources on hand as $50.61.
A subsidy organization of the Company; the Derry Volunteer Firemen’s Relief association , was established on December 28, 1925 with the purpose “to provide for and maintain a fund from legacies, bequests and other sources for the relief of its members who may be injured in the line of duty. On January 12, 1926, the first Relief Association officers were elected. They included: Ralph H. Lynn-President, Charles Kemp-Vice President, Robert M. Doty-Secretary and Albert C. Kelis-Treasurer. Trustees-George Sweeney, S.F. Schwerdt, James R. Butler, Millard E. Lunnen and Clyde Mack.
With the formation of the Relief Association, a relief fund established in 1912 to serve as a depository for State Foreign Fire Service grants was dissolved and proceeds transferred to the newly created organization.
Over the 125 years of service of the Derry Volunteer Fire Department, hundreds of members have filled their ranks; some for just a short time, others for lengthy periods of time. Many have given the majority of their adult lives to the Fire service. James F. Conley was president of the Company for 35 years from 1900 to 1935. Others to hold positions for record lengths of time include; Charles H. Cullen, Secretary, 27 years 9 months, Jerome K. Fisher, Treasurer, 27 years, Samuel B. Piper, Chief, 23 years 9 months, Clarence C. Deeds, Chief, 28 years (1937-1964).
The Derry Volunteer Fire Department is now well into its second century of service. As it was in the beginning back in 1889, the Derry Volunteer Firefighters stand ready to serve their fellow citizens in time of emergency. The dedication to duty inspired by H. Johnston Neal and the Firefighters who followed over the 125 year span continues its commitment of service by todays Fire Company members and remains a vital force for the good of the community.

The 2014 Derry Volunteer Fire Company

The 2014 Derry Volunteer Fire Company

Please also enjoy the Video History of the Derry Volunteer Fire Company

Derry VFD – 125 Years of Service

Ambulances lined up outside of the high school

Ambulances lined up outside of the high school

On 7-9-14 at 0709, the hustle and bustle of our morning was gone. A 16-year-old student went on a stabbing rampage at Franklin-Regional High School in Murrysville Pa, less than 20 miles from where I live. By 0730 it was over and the actor was in custody; although 24 people were injured. Now, I can go on with facts, figures and statements made by officials. Having been involved in Emergency Services for 23 years I can tell you that those that they pick to interview usually have no business giving any information. It might be their job to be the Public Information Officer (PIO) for their area; Police, Fire, EMS; but one thing is for sure; be prepared. Oh yeah, and try not to act like it’s a pain in your ass to give out any information. I saw at least one official who had an attitude with reporters during a press conference. Okay, off of that. It is what it is and it will never change. Some people don’t care what they’re talking about as long as they are in front of a camera.

Helicopters staged on the athletics field

Helicopters staged on the athletics field

How about the students? All of them, even the ones not injured in the attack, will have memories of this tragic event for a long time, if not for the rest of their lives. From all accounts it sounds like the suspect walked in to school carrying two 8 inch knives and just started walking down a hallway, stabbing and slashing as he went. I hear a lot of why, like why did this happen. I am left with how. How did this student get not one, but 2 knives in to school seemingly undetected? Franklin-Regional has several security guards and a School Resource Officer(SRO) as well. The SRO is a police officer with the Murrysville Police Dept. At 0709 he radioed that he had a situation at the High School. The following is a transcript of the initial radio traffic:

7:09 a.m.

“I don’t know what I’ve got going on down at the school here, but I need some units here ASAP.”

“Alright, we’re getting a call reporting one individual has a knife.”

“230 and additional units, the actor with the knife is in room 213.”

“Alright, correction on that. There is a victim down in room 115.”

7:10 a.m.

“Murrysville units, the actor is (suspect’s name removed). They’re not sure of his location right now.”

7:11 a.m.

“Station 610 bravo response, Franklin Regional High School, multiple stab victims.”

“Station 610, sir, we’re trying to see three stab victims, there is bleeding.”

“10-4, we’re still obtaining additional information. We’re not sure how many people are involved at this time.”

7:13 a.m.

“Hey, 14, a description on that actor, I’d appreciate it, maybe a vehicle he drives if he has one.”

7:14 a.m.

“I was just going to recommend that also. Police are advising scene’s not secure. They do have multiple victims, 225’s unavailable. Do you want 952?”

7:15 a.m.

“Chief, location and description on the actor?”

“I’m at the front door, to the first hallway on the right, halfway down. I’ve got multiple victims here. We need ambulances here as soon as possible.”

“Be advised the suspect is in custody, only one suspect.”

“About, about 14 patients right now.”

“I need ambulances around the side.”

7:16 a.m.

“One stab wound to the back, one to the arm.”

“Make that three ambulances, another stab wound to the back.”

“OK, be advised, inside the school we have multiple stab victims, OK? So just bring in EMS from wherever you can get ‘em. Get us some local officers here also and, again, the suspect is in custody, but we need some help here.”

“Also, police are requesting EMS into the scene, actor is in custody, still don’t have an exact count on victims at this time.”

Listen to radio traffic from incident (Courtesy of Channel 4 Action News)

Back to the “How?” Did Franklin-Regional have medical detectors? No. Was the student with the knives even seen by security guards or the SRO? don’t know. What I do know is that there was no way to know that this student was bringing weapons into the school. Everyone thinks that they are safe and have the attitude that; “That would never happen to us here…” Well, sadly, Franklin-Regional has joined with Columbine and Sandy Hook. We feel secure that our children are safe and we could never experience anything like this but we have learned that hard way that we are all susceptible to tragedies like this one.  The School Superintendent was asked about bullying and he said that the subject hadn’t mentioned anything about bullying. Then he was asked how bad the bullying was at the school. Once again, a diffusive answer. The reporter then stated that several students had stated that bullying was a huge problem at the school. The Superintendent then became obviously irritated and refused to answer.

Was it worth not answering to admit that your school is no different from any other school in the country or the world? All he stated was that there were resources available for students being bullied. He didn’t state if the suspect had sought assistance from any of these resources or not. Several students have stated that the suspect was bullied because of acne and general things but the school is remaining tight-lipped on any of it.

In the end, this is not about assigning blame or any of that. It’s about supporting the students and school are remembered and assisted in any way we can. The students involved need our support as well as their families. Let’s also not forget about the suspect himself.   He needs support as does his family as we all try to make sense out of this. Throwing blame around at whose fault it is would be counter productive but it will inevitably happen… And the call ME crazy…


For those of you who didn’t already know, I must sadly (happily) report that hate group leader, sorry, Pastor, Fred Phelps has died. I’ll give you a minute to blow your nose, burp, fart or chuckle as you let this set in. He died late Wednesday night of natural causes. I read that and was shocked because I didn’t think you could die from being a pariah, but I guess I was wrong. Phelps was the leader of the Westboro Baptist Church from Kansas that took it upon themselves to protest Military funerals to spread their word of hatred, narrow-mindedness, stupidity and disrespect.

Hater -  Fred Phelps

Hater – Fred Phelps

Now please don’t get me wrong, I’m not going to make this piece any longer than it needs to be but I feel that with all of the bullshit he spread, the number of servicemen he disrespected, he deserves a little comeuppance because it is only right. His church requested that there be no protests at his funeral. Really? Too effing bad. I think there should have been thousands of soldiers in full uniform standing outside the outhouse where he held services. His church preached the first amendment but who in the hell do they think gave them that right. That’s right boys and girls, the servicemen  his dumb ass was protesting. My wife and I were talking about this the other day and she thinks that when (and if) he gets to heaven, there will be all of the soldiers he himself and his church protested, waiting to greet him and show him what it is to be honorable. I think she’s right. On Saturday, his church announced there would be no funeral. Well of course not. They knew no one would come and pay their respects to someone who did not deserve ANY respect.

I hope that this means the end for the Westboro Baptist Church. It is a sad state that this group relates to a hate group but they think they are above the label because they are a church, technically. As I close this just let me say this; Karma has come back around in this instance and I believe GOD has a special place for him. To continue to hate does nothing but perpetuate Phelps message of hatred and bigotry. I hope that Westboro will try and take on a new message of tolerance and acceptance. They spread hate and misunderstanding and hide behind the First Amendment and the Bible. Geeze, and they call ME crazy…

An illegal alien is suing the Boulder County, (Colorado) Sheriffs Office that saved his life. Yes, I want to make sure you understood me here. I did say; Illegal Alien. I thought the article was a parody or something less pathetic than this but I was wrong. Roy Ortiz was trapped in his car in a flash flood last September on US 287 in Colorado. His attorney filed court documents related to the incident. Holy Hell, first we have someone who is in this country ILLEGALLY  but I think what is even more heinous is the fact a lawyer took the case. No wait, actually it doesn’t surprise me at all. There are enough ambulance chasing turds out there that only see dollar signs and could care less about outrage.

Plaintiff; Roy Ortiz

Plaintiff; Roy Ortiz

But I digress. Here is what happened that prompted this law suit. On September 12th, 2013, a vehicle driven by Ortiz was swept off the roadway and overturned by rushing water. Now if you know me, you know I am holding my tongue and keeping the jokes to myself. Anyhow, in court documents filed by Ortiz’s attorney; It took firefighters about 2 hours to rescue Ortiz. He now claims that the North Metro Fire Rescue District was negligent in their duties because he “should” have been extricated more quickly.  Really. well, I’m at a loss here. It’s amazing that the rescuers couldn’t just “magic” him from his vehicle. Maybe they hadn’t had that training yet. Maybe Merlin wasn’t available. Perhaps Penn and Teller were on tour.

His cretinous mouth piece, sorry,  lawyer, Ed Ferszt, had this to say when interviewed by 7 News in Denver:

Divers rescuing Ortiz from his overturned vehicle.

Divers rescuing Ortiz from his overturned vehicle.

“Of course he was thankful because those divers played a major role in saving his life that day. That doesn’t negate that a mistake may have been made. I can understand why there’s a lot of furor over people thinking he’s biting the hand that feeds. Does that mean that the officers of North Metro Fire are above reproach?  Well, well let’s talk for a second about the divers. If divers went in the water in an attempt to locate Roy and they didn’t see him there, that was a mistake and the legal term for that mistake is negligence.” 

Wow! I am blown away by this guy. He obviously was absent from law school the day they taught law. He is saying that by going in the water to find the Illegal Alien but didn’t find him it was a mistake. I got lost there. He’s sounding like not initially finding his client, was a mistake. Apparently he’s never entered rushing water and tried to find anything in it. He has probably never even heard of the Good Samaritan Act. While things are slightly different for paid emergency crews, as long as they were not Grossly Negligent, they did not make a mistake.

Ortiz claims he is still having shoulder pain and is seeking $500,000 in damages. I have but one thing to say to that; B-O-O H-O-O. I still don’t see what that has to do for what we are talking about here. His alleged shoulder injury could have occurred when he was entering the United States ILLEGALLY. Anyhow, tool bag, I mean lawyer Ed Ferszt, became visibly irritated when interviewed by Fox News. Gretchen Carlson posed a question about Ortiz’s residency status. After several minutes of banter, where Ferszt repeatedly insisted that even if his client was in the country illegally, it would have no bearing on the law suit. Realizing she was not going to get a straight answer from this bottom feeder, sorry, lawyer, she told the audience on a commercial break that the attorney stated that Ortiz had indeed broken the law and entered the country ILLEGALLY. Ferszt did not correct Carlson after she made the comment.

Those who support first responders realize they risked their lives that day to save Ray Ortiz’s life. They also wonder of he will be arrested for breaking federal law. A good question indeed. Why is Ortiz suing those that rescued him? “Well I’m really happy. I’m really happy to be alive, but I’m looking for some help with my bills. I don’t have the money to pay,” Ortiz said. Well isn’t that just dandy. If I need help with my bills who can I sue? Maybe my employer for not paying me enough to meet the demands of my circumstances. Maybe if I get a speeding ticket I can sue the cop who pulled me over. All of that is just academic for one large, glaring reason. I am a citizen of the United States. I was born here and have lived here my entire life, and on top of it, I pay taxes.

Should this law suit be successful, it will set huge and dangerous precedent for Police, Fire Fighters, EMT’s and Paramedics. Anyone who feels they weren’t rescued quick enough or rendered aid in a timely manner could theoretically sue those who came to their aid. Where City’s are trying to make money to pay their Emergency Services, a frivolous law suit like this one could bankrupt a struggling city. Now take smaller towns and boroughs with volunteer Emergency Responders. Departments could be shut down leaving that municipality in dire need of help. Would you want to wait 15 or 20 minutes for an ambulance or fire truck? What if your house was being broken in to? How would a 1/2 hour wait or possible longer be?

A lawsuit like this one is just wrong for so many reasons. First of all, the plaintiff is an Illegal Alien. Next question is; what is the acceptable amount of time to rescue someone from the mangled car? How many people have actually been to a crash? Each one is different and poses its own set of challenges. Now let’s add in the fact that Ortiz’s car was overturned in rushing water. How easy do you think it would be for an extrication? This is the point I have been trying to get to. What Judge is going to risk his reputation by stating what the acceptable amount of time a rescue should occur in. Will all variables be taken into account? Weather conditions? Degree of entrapment, amount of damage to the vehicle, patient condition?

To me, I think is a ridiculous law suit and a HUGE waste of time and resources. It is also going to cost Boulder County a ton of money to prosecute and be (hopefully) unsuccessful. The fact that anyone would even entertain something like this blows my mind, but I feel like it could be a huge blow to Emergency Responders, both paid and volunteer, everywhere. It was stated earlier that many who have expressed outrage over this law suit said it seemed like biting the hands that feeds. To me it seems like biting the hand that saves too. And they call ME crazy…

“Of course he was thankful because those divers did have a major role to play in saving his life that day. That doesn’t negate the fact that a mistake may have been made. I can understand why there’s a lot of furor over people thinking that he’s biting the hand that feeds. Does that mean that officers of North Metro Fire are above reproach? Well, well let’s talk for a second about the divers. If divers went into the water in an attempt to locate Roy and they didn’t see him there, as dangerous a job that it is — and we are thankful for first responders, that was a mistake. And the legal term for that mistake is negligence.”
“Of course he was thankful because those divers did have a major role to play in saving his life that day. That doesn’t negate the fact that a mistake may have been made. I can understand why there’s a lot of furor over people thinking that he’s biting the hand that feeds. Does that mean that officers of North Metro Fire are above reproach? Well, well let’s talk for a second about the divers. If divers went into the water in an attempt to locate Roy and they didn’t see him there, as dangerous a job that it is — and we are thankful for first responders, that was a mistake. And the legal term for that mistake is negligence.”
“Of course he was thankful because those divers did have a major role to play in saving his life that day. That doesn’t negate the fact that a mistake may have been made. I can understand why there’s a lot of furor over people thinking that he’s biting the hand that feeds. Does that mean that officers of North Metro Fire are above reproach? Well, well let’s talk for a second about the divers. If divers went into the water in an attempt to locate Roy and they didn’t see him there, as dangerous a job that it is — and we are thankful for first responders, that was a mistake. And the legal term for that mistake is negligence.”

I came across an article the other day that shocked me and disgusted me all at the same time. While feeling the ire boil as I read, I was brought to tears by the time I finished. It is the story of Lt. Billie D. Harris.

Peggy & Bille D. Harris

Peggy & Bille D. Harris

When Peggy Seale and Billy D. Harris got married on September 22nd 1943, they were like most young couples of that time; young, full of hope and madly in love. The 2nd Lt. and his bride were confident in their future as they said their vows but had no idea just how different their future would be.

Planning on a weeks leave for their honeymoon, their plans were cut short when a troop ship full of pilots was torpedoed. Billie Harris’ group was tapped to take their place. He was assigned to the 355th fighter squadron / 354th fighter group and was based in England. He began fly bomber support. After the invasion of Normandy, they were hitting ground targets. Lt. Harris would earn 2 air medals with 11 oak leaf clusters as well as the Distinguished Flying Cross. By July of 1944 he had flown 60-100 missions. Because he had flown so many missions, he was eligible to be sent home. He wrote his bride telling her he had been assigned a spot on a troop ship and should be home shortly. He was then advised that the wounded had priority and he would have to wait for another ship. The date of the letter was July 8th, 1944.

In late July, Peggy received a telegram dated July 7th that Billie was listed as Missing in action. It was the first mistake in a long list of mistakes that would be part of Peggy’s life for the next 62 years. “After I got over the shock I went to the telegraph office and told them there had been a mistake,” She said. “I told them I had a letter dated July 8th so he couldn’t have gone missing on July 7th. I didn’t know if the telegraph operator had made a mistake or if it was a mistake by the War Department.” She subsequently received a second telegram correcting the date to July 17th, 1944.

“I was working at the air base while Billie was over seas. I was taking an instrument panel from an airplane of a pilot had been killed,” Peggy began. “There was blood on the gauges. I couldn’t do it anymore after that, so I went up to Colorado with friends for a while.” Later, an official Military release was sent from Supreme Headquarters Allied France (SHEAF) asserting that Lt. Harris had returned to the United States on leave but none of the family had heard from him. Not convinced that her husband was in the United States, and with no further information, Peggy appealed to the Red Cross. “I was told not to be concerned, that no doubt he was being “processed” probably at some military hospital,” She recalled. Lt. Harris’ wife and family were hopeful that was the case. “Billie’s parents and I chose to believe he was in the states and in a hospital, maybe not knowing who he was, perhaps he had lost his memory, we had heard of cases like that.”

Lt. Billie D. Harris

Lt. Billie D. Harris

By March of 1945, Peggy had heard no new information so she contacted the Red Cross and asked if Military hospitals could be contacted. The Red Cross told Mrs. Harris that it was too expensive to launch a search, in fact they were sure Lt. Harris would soon turn up. After that, Peggy Harris contacted Congressman Ed Gossett in Washington D.C. who in turn sent information to the International Red Cross and gave them the information on Lt. Billie D. Harris. Thereafter began a series of conflicting reports, including notification that he was missing in action, then killed in action, then missing in action again. It seemed that no one could agree on what happened to Lt. Harris, in fact it seemed that no one knew.

In 1948, Peggy Harris got a government form asking her to indicate where she wanted Lt. Harris’ remains interred. ” I really didn’t believe they were talking about Billie because we still didn’t know where he was,” she said.  On the advice of a lawyer, Peggy signed the form and that eventually allowed her to receive Military benefits.  Peggy did not, however, believe her husband was dead.

Congressman Mac Thornberry

Congressman Mac Thornberry

Until their death in the 80’s, Billie’s parents held out hope that their son was still alive. In fact, the story could have ended then if not for Billie’s cousin who became intrigued with the story. Alton Harvey was born after Billie died but had heard the story all of his life and wanted to know what had happened. During his extensive research, Peggy also continued to seek information too. She sent a letter in 2005 to congressman Mac Thornberry, who was also Vice-Chair of the Senate Arms committee. He said Bille D. Harris was still listed as Missing In Action in the national Archives. Turns out, Thornberry never looked himself. Some underpaid inter or staffer was probably tapped with the job and didn’t think it important so didn’t even look. Billie’s cousin did a simple search of the archives and Billie indeed was found to be Killed in Action and was buried at the American cemetery in Normandy.

Now you might think the story ends there. It doesn’t. This was the part that brought me to tears. Billie’s cousin found out that some files were being made available of pilots who were buried in France. When he called the Department of the Army to see the file, he was told that it would be a while due to limited staff. However a phone call shortly thereafter told him that a woman in France had asked to have the file pulled 6 months earlier and it was available.

[The woman was Valerie Quesnel of Les Ventes, France. Quesnel was a board member of the little french town, which in 2004 wanted to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the French liberation. It was during these preparations that the complete story of Lt. Bille D. Harris came to light. Representatives from the French Embassy in Canada were invited to attend the ceremony, which paid tribute at a war memorial to citizens who had been killed in an air raid on the town in 1944, to those who had fought in the French resistance, and to a pilot whose plane had been shot down in the nearby woods – a Canadian named Lt. Billie D’Harris. However, an article detailing the 2004 ceremony caught the attention of a Mr. Huard, president of the Normandy Association for the Remembrance of the Liberation. Huard wrote to the town council that he believed the pilot in question was not Canadian, but an American. It was also noted that the pilot’s body had been moved from the town in 1946, although a large marker remained there, and Lt. Harris had been temporarily buried in another cemetery, he was later permanently transferred to the Normandy American Cemetery at Colleville-Sur-Mer.

Quesnel made a trip to the cemetery and confirmed the information. It was then that she began her research through the Department of the Army in Alexandria, Va. In September 2005, Quesnel received over 200 pages of information concerning Harris. It was about this time that Harvey’s research had led him to the same department, and he also was able to obtain the information.

Harvey and his wife drove from Austin, where they currently reside, to Harris’ home in Vernon to personally present her with the documentation and perhaps the last piece of a puzzle that had gone unsolved for over 60 years. Among the information was the name and address of Quesnel. Harris immediately wrote a letter expressing her appreciation to the small town of Les Ventes for their original burying of her husband there and the subsequent years of tribute they had paid to his honor. Thereafter a correspondence began between the two women, and Harris was able to finally learn what had happened on that July day in 1944.

Through records, documentation and eye-witness accounts, Harris learned that on July 17, 1944 around 7 p.m., Harris’ plane had crashed in the forest outside the small village of Les Ventes, France, about 90 miles northwest of Paris. The plane did not burn, and French resistance members were the first to get to the aircraft and discovered the pilot had not survived. The men removed his handgun and code book. They quickly left, however, when they heard Germans approaching the crash site. “Because his flight jacket bore the letters Billie D Harris, it was assumed it was D’Harris,” Harris said. “They thought from that he was Canadian.”

Among documents Harris received was a letter written on July 20, 1944 by the town’s mayor, a “Mr. Desfriches,” in which he stated that the Germans had removed an identification tag with the pilot’s name, identification number and his mother’s name and address, and a glass medallion containing a four-leaf clover. Found on the pilot was a ring with a “kitten” on it, bearing the inscription PLS, and Vernon HS 1941. This ring was actually Harris’ high school ring, placed on her husband’s finger on their wedding day in 1943 because she couldn’t afford to purchase a wedding band. The ring has subsequently vanished.

According to the mayor’s letter, the ring was kept by the mayor to be returned to the family along with two photographs also found, but somehow the ring disappeared while in U.S. military custody, Harris reported.

Peggy Harris & Guy Surleau. nd Harris after his plane crashed.The first to fi

Peggy Harris & Guy Surleau. The first to find Harris after his plane crashed.

The townspeople retrieved the pilot’s body from the plane wreckage, and it was wrapped in a sheet given by a “Mrs. Frichot” and placed in an oak coffin. It was the buried at the cemetery at 9 a.m., July 19, 1944 in the presence of about 70 people. The coffin was covered with summer flowers brought by the townspeople from their own homes and gardens. The cemetery also contained the graves of others considered to be “heroes” by the villagers, including those who had died assisting the French freedom fighters. In fact, each year since the country’s liberation, the people of the village had several times a year paid tribute to those buried in the cemetery, including the pilot that had thought of as Canadian. Even after his body was removed in 1946 by the U.S. Army and moved to a temporary cemetery in Blosville, France, where he was listed as an “unknown,” the townspeople continued to include him in their tribute.

“It was as if they adopted him as their own,” Harris said.

Peggy Harris and her nephew Jim Maloney

Peggy Harris and her nephew Jim Maloney

riginal grave marker at Les Ventes

Original grave marker at Les Ventes

In 1947, Lt. Harris’ body was taken to a casketing point in Cherbourg where he was still listed as “unknown.” In September 1948, he was interred in Normandy American Cemetery as Billie D. Harris. The stark white stone cross bears his group and squadron numbers and “Oklahoma.”

“When I received the information and files from Alton, I immediately wrote to Mrs. Quesnel to thank her for the kindness of the townspeople,” Harris said. In her letter, Harris wrote: “I was overwhelmed by the caring kindness of your townspeople and wonder if any of them are yet alive. I want to thank them for their tender care…I learned at last that caring hands took him from the wreckage.”

As the women began to correspond and other town officials became aware of the situation, an invitation was issued to Harris from the current mayor, Christine Fessard, to visit Les Ventes. Meanwhile Harris’ story was reported in a French magazine and on French radio, requesting anyone with additional information to come forward.

billies markerWith an emotional heart, Harris accepted the invitation to go to France, and on April 6, accompanied by Alton and Gaye Harvey, landed at Charles DeGalle Airport in Paris.

The next morning, the group was met by Valerie Quesnel, who drove them to Les Ventes. Peggy Harris met some of the people who were there the day Billie crashed.

On Sunday, April 9, some 300 people gathered at a monument at the city hall, where Lt. Harris’ name is listed among those martyred during the war. Mayor Fessard read aloud the names inscribed there. The group then made its way to the village cemetery for a ceremony similar to those that had been performed three times a year for over 60 years on May 8, victory in Europe; Aug. 22, the day Les Ventes was liberated, and Nov. 11, the end of the war. A number of local as well as national dignitaries spoke, and an Englishman named Bob Goodall, who lived in the town, served as interpreter. Harris was presented with a large bouquet, which she placed on the grave site in an emotional moment.

Back at city hall, displays had been set up for public viewing, which included pictures and memorabilia from the era and also pictures that Harris had provided. An eight-course catered luncheon was held in Harris’ honor after which she made a speech thanking the people. In her words, Harris told those present how the actions of the townspeople so many years ago “quiets and comforts my heart.”

The next day, Harris and the Harveys, accompanied by Madame Quesnel, visited the Normandy cemetery. There they were greeted by Supt. Daniel Neece and his wife, Yolanda. Neece told Harris she was the first widow to visit the World War II cemetery in the past five years.

Harris visited the Normandy cemetery several times over the next few days. On one visit, she and Harvey were granted permission to sprinkle soil from Lt. Harris’ parents’ graves in Altus on their son’s gravesite. She also has made arrangements for flowers to be placed on Lt. Harris’ grave several times a year, including Valentine’s Day, Easter, Christmas and on July 17, the date of the plane crash; Nov. 11, Veteran’s Day, and Oct. 14, his birthday.]

Now that I have given you the story of 2nd Lt. Bille Dowe Harris, I can start to rant in my usual fashion. I’m sure I will draw some fire from some uninformed, government cheerleader but too bad. Being a veteran myself, I found myself wondering how we could do something like this. I realize up until the 90’s and even later our technology and record keeping wasn’t as high-tech as it is now, but is that really any excuse?  To me, he was a hero of the French Liberation; a true hero. Where I have the problem is that our bureaucrats only care about themselves. Peggy Harris was lied to and met nothing but B.S. from everyone to include the American Red Cross to Washington D.C.  Apparently no one thought finding out the disposition of this Airman was of any importance. Peggy Harris desperately wished  she knew where her husband was but no one seemed to know or even care. It was only after Billie’s cousin Alton Harvey began researching did anything get discovered.

I believe that we should be ashamed as a country that we would act that way towards one of our own. When asked for help even Congressman Mac Thornberry blew it off. WTF! I’m sure if Mrs. Harris was asking that douche bag to do research to find himself a pay raise, he would have jumped on it like a fat kid on a cup cake. It makes me wonder how many other American troops listed as M.I.A. are actually laid to rest or have some other disposition, but the family doesn’t know because the “Government” lost track or whatever the excuse is this week.

Billie D. Harris Place

Billie D. Harris Place

Where I became incensed with this article was the fact that a foreign country honored and took care of an American Airman better than his own country. He is honored 3 times a year and up to 2005, Peggy Harris had no idea where Bille was. We had no clue where he was and this small French town treated an AMERICAN  as one of their own. They even named a street after him and hold their parades on it EVERY year. If we are not going to take care of our veterans, let’s not send them off to war. Sheesh, and they call ME crazy.

When I wrote the original post September 6th, 2011, I never in my wildest dreams thought that it would be hit that it is.  Where are they now? took off and has been the second most read post in ATCMC history. With 10,179 views and over 30 comments, I proved to myself that I wasn’t the only one who loved the show as much as I did. It is still the most read post daily at ATCMC. It propelled me to look into a few more of the “regular players” that graced the ranks of the show along with Johnny and Roy, Captain Hank, Stoker, Chet, Marco and the Medicos at Rampart.

Angelo De Meo

Angelo De Meo

Harold "Hal" Frizzell

Harold “Hal” Frizzell

One of the more notable “bit” players was Angelo De Meo. Born in New York on New Years Eve.  Usually playing one of the ambulance attendants, he was a familiar face on the show for 47 of the episodes. He was not always recognized as he appears here. Known to probably no one, (including me), he was also Randolph Mantooth’s stunt double on the show. After the show wrapped he could be seen in such favorites as Knight Rider, CHiPs and the Fall Guy.

De Meo’s partner on the ambulance and Kevin Tighe’s Stunt double was  Harold “Hal” Frizzell. Born September 11 in Ashland Kentucky he too could be found in other TV shows after EMERGENCY!. He could be seen in Knight Rider, Quincy M.E. and Operation Pettycoat which was a show that Randy Mantooth had a short stint on as Lt. Mike Bender.

Scott Gourlay

Scott Gourlay

George Orrison

George Orrison

Scott Gourlay was born April 13th in Michigan. He was the oldest of four boys. He came to California to be a Country/Western singer. He got into acting by a friend and landed a recurring role on EMERGENCY! as Scotty the policeman. He was also a stuntman. His stunts could be seen on almost every episode. When a building blew up and a fireman was thrown out, that was usually Gourlay. Sadly he died of a heart attack at his home at the young age of 43.

George Orrison also played multiple roles on the show. He was born October 30 in Los Angeles. Most of his appearances were as Georgie the ambulance attendant. He was also part of many of the stunts. When the show wrapped he made several movies with Clint Eastwood as a stunt man or extra roles.

Ann Morgan Guilbert

Ann Morgan Guilbert

Ted Gehring

Ted Gehring

Ann Guilbert was best known as Laura Petrie’s best friend on “The Dick Van Dyke Show”, but she has been seen in several TV shows including Emergency. From landing in cactus plants to getting glued to a toilet seat, Ann Guilbert has done it. More recently she has has parts on Modern Family, Law & Order SVU, Curb your enthusiasm, Seinfeld and other popular shows. At 85 she is still acting and hopefully will continue.

Ted Gehring began acting in 1965. His first three roles were in “Ben Casey”, “The Big Valley” and “12 O’Clock High.” From there he continued to hone his craft and became a well know character actor in the 60’s through the 80’s. He appeared 8 times in various bit parts on emergency but his deep southern twang in his voice was well known. Gehring died in 2000 at the age of 71.

Lillian Lehman

Lillian Lehman

Lew Brown

Lew Brown

Lillian Lehman was known as nurse Carol Williams on Emergency. She wasn’t just a background player on the show, she usually had a prominent part on the episode. She appeared a total of 7 times on the show and has been in many TV Shorts and Made-for-TV-movies since 1968 and last seen on the screen in 2011.

Lew Brown began acting in 1959 but is best known as Shawn Brady on “Days of our Lives” and as Reynolds in the 1970 blockbuster movie “Airport’. He did however appear in 7 different episodes of EMERGENCY! from 1972-1976. He acted in hundreds of TV shows from 1959-1992. Some of the other best known shows were; McCloud, Ellery Queen, Police Story, Quincy, The White Shadow, Dallas, Hotel and Knotts Landing.

I could continue to list other actors who have played even 1 part on the show; there were hundreds. The show is still seen today on reruns and in DVD box sets and will continue to be one of the most beloved shows of all time. Some said that EMERGENCY! would never see success and was a bad idea… And they call ME crazy…

I was planning on starting a new blog and ditching this one, but I decided that ATCMC has withstood the test of time and so my dear readers, I will continue to post here, so stay tuned and look for some new stuff on here in the near future…


Summer Vacation

I’m sure some of you have wondered where I have been for over 2 months… Well summer is here and there has hardly been enough time to get the chores done, yet alone research and write a blog… Ok, write a blog. Anyone who has followed my blog in the three years it has been up knows I do very little if any research… (That is a joke of course.) I will be returning as soon as School starts again and I have a few minutes to breathe… I hope you all have enjoyed the blog so far and thank you all for supporting it… See you all soon!!!

Gary Heidnik Serial Psycho

Gary Heidnik
Serial Psycho

The debate has raged on for years; Should Pennsylvania Abolish the Death Penalty? Since it’s reinstatement in 1976 only 3 people have been executed. Keith Zettlemoyer was executed on May 2, 1995 for 1st Degree Murder, Leon Moser, Executed August 16, 1995 for 1st Degree Murder and Gary Heidnik on July 6, 1999. Heidnik was probably the most famous of the three. He kidnapped, tortured and murdered several women, some of whom he made eat the remains of those killed before them, in the basement of his home.

My opinion is simple; Either use the death penalty or get rid of it. To let not only the inmates but the victim’s families languish for years with no result is not reasonable by any standards. Now the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania has created a task force to study the death penalty and make recommendations to our judicial system. Really? When they say that the death penalty costs the state more money than a life without parole sentence, I have to say I agree. To pay a bunch of pencil pushing panty-wastes an exorbitant salary to study this is ridiculous.

Victim, Jennifer Daugherty

Victim, Jennifer Daugherty

For an example let’s use the Jennifer Daugherty case from Greensburg, Pa. Six people have been charged with the torture-murder of the 30 year-old mentally challenged woman. 3 have been tried and convicted with two of them receiving the death penalty. This woman’s family has had to endure 3 trials so far, reliving all of the gruesome, graphic evidence 3 times over with still 3 more trials to go. What will the outcome be? Will these shit-bags, sorry, criminals be executed? You have a better chance of seeing Dale Earnhardt and Neil Bonnett race at Daytona again. 

Now let’s add in the groups that have never lost someone to a violent crime. Like the ACLU or Amnesty International. They claim that execution is painful and inhumane. So I guess kidnapping, torturing and murdering a mentally challenged woman isn’t. Some site the Bible where it says; “Vengeance is mine sayeth the Lord…” Maybe, but it also says; “An eye for an eye…” Amnesty International says that Pennsylvania has 194 inmates on death row. The breakdown is as follows: 106 blacks, 68 whites, 18 Hispanics and 2 Asians. They further state that the death penalty is racially biased based on police procedures, adequacy of representation and other factors. They also say that African Americans get the death penalty more than whites who commit the same crime. Now see, here is where I get pissed over the whole damn debate. These groups use race as their basis for the outcome. When you use race, most people are afraid to tread there. Well my dear readers, I am not.

Instead of really relaying factual information, they skew it to fit their one-sided argument. While there are more black inmates on death row, how many come from socio-economically depressed areas? Philadelphia, to name only one, has its wealthy sides as well as its depressed neighborhoods, like most large urban areas. To that end, a lot of these people are forced to do things to make ends meet. Some are forced to commit robbery, sell drugs, prostitute and even be forced into the gang lifestyle. While Amnesty International is bemoaning racial profiling, did they factually state that the last 3 people put to death in Pennsylvania, Zettlemoyer, Moser and Heidnik, were all white? Um, I can answer that; No. It makes their racially bigoted argument look a little shaky. I guess because those 3 men were white, it was no big deal. Instead of relying on cold hard data, groups like Amnesty International, the ACLU and Decarcerate PA, can’t fund themselves if they stick to the whole truth. To me it seems like they just want to tilt at windmills, ANY windmill. Thank you Don Quixote.

John Lesko

John Lesko

Michael Travaglia

Michael Travaglia

Does housing an inmate on death row cost more? Yes it does. A 2011 story in The Allentown Morning Call stated that the Pa DOC spends approximately $10,000 more per inmate to house them on death row. Now add in the cost of trials and re-trials. Because the death penalty is an option these are capital cases costing the Commonwealth between 1 and 3 million per case. No add in suck-bags, sorry, inmates like Lesko and Travaglia, who between them have had upwards of 14 re-trials. Each time they get re-convicted and sentenced to death the fall under Pennsylvania’s Post Conviction Relief Act (PCRA), allowing them an automatic appeal. Now here is where I have the problem. They keep getting new trials based on the defense they received in their first trials back in 1982. Each time, both of these assholes, sorry, criminals are convicted and sentenced, they get a new trial. Someone needs to put on their big boy or girl gutchies and say; “No More.” It’s easy to Monday morning quarterback and say Pennsylvania is bleeding money, but no one wants to do anything about it.

I think it’s easy. Instead of paying a bunch of over-educated wieners an obscene amount of money to do a “Study”, use the money to carry out the executions. By allowing multiple appeals you are causing the State to spend more money on an open wound so to speak. Limit the amount of appeals. I mean really, how many times does a jury need convict someone of murder and sentence them to death before the courts actually believe them? Lesko and Travaglia are only part of what is wrong with our judicial system. Why do we keep granting re-trials and appeals based on old information? Like with Lesko and Travaglia, there is nothing new here. What do we hope to accomplish by this act of futility? Easy, Lesko and Travaglia and all of the others getting new trials every other day are basically thumbing their noses at the judicial system knowing they will never “Ride the Lightning”.

Ron "Tater Salad" White

Ron “Tater Salad” White

Now on the other side of the coin, if the Commonwealth decides to abolish the death penalty then let’s change some sentencing guidelines. I mean some of Pennsylvania’s mandatory sentencing practices now need revamping. But onto where I was heading a minute ago. Instead of being sentenced to death, change it to Life without the possibility of parole. One appeal, that’s it. Stop clogging up the courts with these ridiculous appeals that 99% of the time has the same outcome. Is it possible that new information could come to light exonerating the inmate? Possibly. Since 1973 140 people have been released following the proof of wrongful conviction in the United States. That is compared to 1,329 executed in that same period. So in 40 years only 140 have been freed Nation-wide? Sounds like a pretty good ratio to me, but I digress. The change in sentencing guidelines is probably the biggest thing that needs to happen. Comedian Ron White from Texas said; In Texas, if you kill someone, we’ll kill you back. If there are 2 or more credible witnesses who saw what you did, you go to the head of the line. Most states are trying to abolish the death penalty, Texas put in an express lane.” Texas is not afraid to use the death penalty. Since 2010 they have executed 45. Since 1974 they have executed 492.

Ok, now that I have rambled on for what seemed like an unbearable amount of time, the bottom line for me is very simple. If the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania is going to keep the Death Penalty on the books then use it. If they are not going to use it, dump it. It’s not of any solace to a victim’s family to see someone “ceremoniously” sentenced to death to then never have the sentence carried out. Someone needs to get off their asses and make a decision. Appointing a committee to “study” the death penalty is as stupid as it is reckless. The State whines about budget shortfalls but appoints committees to study how much poop ducks and geese shat out. Instead of telling teachers their pay will be based on the success of their students how about our politicians in Harrisburg and Washington have their pay based on the amount of jobs they created or social services they saved, not how much they can spend on lavish trips and other tax payer funded perks. Geeze, and they call ME crazy…

courageWhat does it really cost to be a Fire Fighter? I wrote an earlier post on fund-raising and donations to help out your local volunteers. That is a monetary cost. But what about the physical and mental cost? Thousands of hours each year are spent on training alone and then add in actual calls. Some of these volunteers are gone for hours each week, away from their families, jobs and other things while serving their communities. Then there is the ultimate cost. What about, God forbid, they are killed in the line of duty? Line Of Duty Deaths (LODD) occur every year in the fire service and are a devastating loss to the department, but what about to the fire fighter’s family? Was this person the bread-winner? Then you have kids losing a parent.

west texasVolunteer Fire Departments are a staple in many towns and the only way to have adequate fire protection. Most little Boroughs, towns and villages can’t afford a paid or career department so the Volunteer Fire Department is their way to go. Okay, I can hear you now, “Is there a point to any of this?” Yes, actually there is. I am talking about the fertilizer plant explosion earlier this week in West Texas. The West Texas Volunteer Fire Department was the 1st due department on scene. They were engulfed in an explosion of 25 tons of Sodium Nitrate. They know of at least 5 Fire Fighters killed in the conflagration, not to mention Police and EMS Personnel also lost. There are still others unaccounted for.

TX-West-fire-engine-2Let’s put this in perspective. Timothy McVey only used 1 Ton of Sodium Nitrate when he detonated his bomb in Oklahoma. There were reports that homes almost 3 blocks away were decimated in the blast. West Texas VFD confirmed that 5 of their members have died and 11 more are hospitalized. For a department that only has 29 volunteers on its roster they have lost 55% of their department. The life lost is the ultimate cost, but what about equipment too? It was reported that the West Texas VFD was the typical small town department. They don’t have endless rivers of money pouring into their department so it is another hit to them.

Every Department in the United States is covered under their communities’ workman’s compensaation insurance and there is a death benefit paid, but then still others have supplemental insurance through other companies like VFIS. (Volunteer Fireman’s Insurance Service). This supplemental insurance is not free but it helps the family with the final expenses and hopefully provides a little cushion to help the family get back on their feet, especially if the fire fighter killed was the bread-winner. In this day and age of a tanking economy, a tragic event like this hits a family especially hard because like I said earlier, there is the emotional devastation but also a financial loss.

Okay, that was the somber, worst-case-scenario of being a volunteer. What about the emotional toll? Let’s just start with long hours. Many times I have found myself standing for hours in the rain or beating sun or freezing weather at a vehicle accident or other emergency. After a while it can have an effect on you. Hours spent on the fire ground after a bad fire are tough as well. First responders are forced to deal with raw emotions at the scene of a call and have to deal with them in a professional manner. Families are experiencing horrible emotions during an emergency and then add in the death of a loved one and you could have an explosive situation and volunteers are forced to handle them, often with no training at all. Imagine being on the nozzle in a burning house and finding a victim, perhaps deceased, burnt or even worse; a child. All these things affect first responders. It can lead to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder or PTSD. We have heard a lot about PTSD since the war in Iraq and Afghanistan but first responders deal with it as well. Does PTSD have tragic results? You bet it does.

sad 1Some seasoned veterans of the volunteer fire and EMS service say they have seen too much to ever be affected by something horrific. I disagree. You can have 20 minutes or 20 years in and still be affected. You never know what it is that finally takes someone over the edge. I myself spent 15 years as an EMT and Paramedic and 4 years as a Deputy Coroner. I am in my 22nd year as a Volunteer Firefighter and can say in all that time I have seen many things that affected me. My wife spent even more time as a Paramedic and Nurse and she was able to help me through the bad stuff. Having someone to talk to about it helped me. My wife would ask me questions about what happened on the call and we would discuss it. I know the she helped me through and to where I am today.

Not everyone is as lucky as I was. Having someone to talk to who has been there is an even bigger bonus and I had that. Some are not that lucky. They end up keeping it all bottled up inside until it explodes or they hide in a bottle and try to drink their way to back to sanity. It ends up backfiring and bad things happen. Some first responders end up committing suicide. Others have committed murder or worse all because of something horrible they saw. Dealing with emotional issues after traumatic calls is a serious issue. Paid departments could conceivably have a person trained to deal with the issues in the aftermath. I don’t know of any Volunteer Departments that have that luxury. A lot of Volunteer personnel are forced to deal with their feelings on their own or pay for a counselor out of their own pocket. To that end, the feelings lie unresolved until they boil over and there horrific results.

While it might seem that I believe that being a Volunteer is more difficult than being paid, I don’t. I do however believe that it has its own set of unique challenges. Training is a big one though. While most career Fire Fighters and Paramedics receive their training for free, many Volunteers are forced to pay for their own training or just not have it. With things changing the way they are, even Volunteer departments are being forced to have the same training as paid departments. This is an ever-increasing problem. Many volunteer departments just simply lack the properly trained members or the money to get them trained.

I guess it mainly boils down to money. Some Volunteer Departments are forced operate antiquated or sub-par equipment or even worse just do without. Their membership base is just too economically strapped to help out much and in turn results in low Fund Drive Returns and poor showings for Fund Raisers. Has this resulted in Departments closing their doors? Yes it has. In just my 22 years as a Volunteer Fire Fighter I have seen several departments close their doors due to no money. Other departments have closed because of low membership numbers. You can’t operate 5 pieces of apparatus when you don’t have enough active members to even fully crew 1.

The next time you see a volunteer firefighter or EMT, take a second to thank them for what they do. Also think about what the real cost is to be a volunteer.  Some people think they are in it to get to run a blue light and speed to calls. Really? And they call ME crazy.

Rest In Peace to those lost.

Rest In Peace to those lost.



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