Thursday, February 12, 2015

On “Being Mortal”...AND Perpetual War

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Atul Gawande M.D. (Author of "Being Mortal")

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Don Franklin (L-44, FDNY)

I worked with Don Franklin, the first FDNY firefighter killed in the line-of-duty in 2001 (Saturday 1/13/01). I worked the day before (Friday, January 12th, day & night) and we had 3 jobs (fires) the night before (around 11pm, then around 3:30am and the last about 7am) at the last one, we overhauled at a 2nd Alarm a little north of us and we didn't get back to the firehouse until after 11am. I felt like crashing right there, but I was afraid that if I did, I'd wake up around I showered and drove home to sleep in my own bed.

Work was spurty back'd get slammed one day and get nothing but nuisance runs (rubbish fires, food-on-the-stoves, car fires, electrical, gas and water leaks, etc.) for a couple days after. I figured the rest of the weekend would be pretty light, so I was very surprised to get a call on Sunday morning that Donnie had been killed at a fire at 166th Street and Teller Avenue that came in around 8pm Saturday night.

The Funeral week was a blur, I drove the family transport van taking his family from Staten Island (where we lived) up to Orange County, NY, where Don had moved. It was an extremely gut-wrenching week for everyone in that firehouse. Don was about 43 y/o. He didn't want to die. He didn't need to die. He had plans....his family had plans.

That experience made understanding the chaos a few months later when 3 firefighters had to be buried after the Father's Day fire very hard to comprehend...and then the seemingly endless parade of post-9/11 Funerals and Memorials was even more incomprehensible. If one Funeral was so devastating, how could any group of guys handle so many more? It's unimaginable to think of a Company burying 9, 10, sometimes 12 or more guys after 9/11/01.

In the wake of all that, it's hard to conceive that the best way to honor those 403 Emergency Service workers (343 FDNY firefighters, 37 PAPD cops and 23 NYPD cops) along with the nearly 2600 other civilians murdered on 9/11 was to sacrifice nearly 5,000 more American lives and damage countless others, both physically and emotionally in a series of subsequent wars.

I was thinking about that recently because so many people STILL seem to see war as a primary option....kind of "no big deal," when it IS a big deal...a VERY BIG DEAL to those killed and maimed AND to their families, who have to live with all that for the rest of their lives.

FRONTLINE put on an excellent broadcast called "Being Mortal" this past Tuesday night, February 10th. It was a broadcast based on a work by the same title, by a surgeon named Atul Gawande. It shows how agonizing a SINGLE death can be for ALL involved. It's well worth watching. I know it won't change some people's minds, but it's an interesting thing to contemplate...the enormity of death, ESPECIALLY relative to the ease in which some people condone and accept calls for mass slaughter. No one should ever want to be....THAT GUY....the one who reflexively calls for, or accepts "endless," or "perpetual war."

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