Friday, October 6, 2017

Never Judge a Book by Its Cover

Chris ("Doc") Dougherty (L) & Kevin Kuhr (R)

I spent my best days in the FDNY in the Bronx.
At every step of the way I’ve met GREAT people...EXCEPTIONAL men.

When I was at E92 & L44 in the Morrisania section of the South Bronx, that firehouse, like most others was filled with a collection of “characters,” guys who were “different,” but endlessly amusing...“Firehouse Crazy” is the term some used to describe them, as opposed to clinically crazy.

Shortly after I transferred from Engine 92 to 44 Truck, I was assigned a guy named Kevin Kuhr as a mutual partner...the guy you exchange tours with.

I hadn’t known Kevin very well when I was in the Engine, but I knew he was “a man of few words and a perpetual scowl.” Kevin had the menacing presence of a Biker, with a large Fu Manchu mustache that made it seem as though he was always snarling...and he had a rebel flag tattoo on each forearm. In some ways, Kevin looked like that Brutus/Pluto character on L-44's patch (pictured).

In short, he wasn’t the friendliest looking guy around.

So, I approached my first real contact with “Kevin K. Kuhr” (his nickname, get it? “KKK”?) with some trepidation. I had no expectation I’d be one of Kev’s favorite people, or that we'd even get along, but then again, I never EXPECT another person to like me. Free people are, in fact, free to like and dislike others for ANY reason, or NO reason at all. No one has any right to expect others to like them.

At any rate, I quickly found Kevin to be the easiest guy to work with. He suggested, “Why don’t we set up our mutuals a month in advance with each guy working the half that his group is in first, so if it’s Wednesday night/Thursday day and Thursday night/Friday day, whoever’s group is in Wednesday night does that first half? If either of us needs a swap, we can call in advance and work something out.” That worked out fine and Kevin became the best mutual partner I ever had.

On "OT" (over-time), I got to work a number of tours with Kevin and I can honestly say that no one attacked a fire with more vigor than Kevin did. While he never pretended to like everyone, he always went above and beyond at jobs (fires).

I’ve always found that it’s usually guys like Kevin (well, maybe not all of them as taciturn, or rough around the edges as Kevin), but guys who see a fire as a challenge NOT the guys who say things like, “Every time I think of a kid trapped in a fire, I think of my own kids,” who consistently go ALL OUT!

The guy who says things like, “Every time I think of a kid trapped in a fire, I think of my own kids,” are usually the guys too focused on making sure they get back to their own kids. Guys like Kevin and others who rise to the challenge, tend to get “lost in the focus of that challenge” and it’s they who tend to, more often than not, go “above and beyond” what could be expected.

I was, sad to say, at Kevin’s last job. I had the roof and he was the Outside Vent, or “OV.” Together our positions made up "the Outside Team," as opposed to the Officer, the "Can" (the firefighter carrying the 2½ gallon extinguisher) and the "Irons" (the firefighter carrying the forcible entry tools) who comprised "the Inside Team." The Outside Team members worked isolated and alone/apart. At any rate, towards the end of the fire, we had 44’s Bucket at the Roof and were sending all the saws, roof ropes and a few other tools down “express,” as we, who'd worked on the roof, would make our way down through the fire building.

Kevin made his way up to us and came over to me and said, I can’t lift my arm.”

“Above where,” I asked.

“I can’t lift it above here,” he replied...he wasn’t raising it at all.

We sent Kevin down in the Bucket with the tools.

It turned out he’d cracked the ball of his shoulder joint tearing apart the fire apartment. He needed to have his shoulder rebuilt...and NEVER worked full duty again.

Without ANY question, most “Left-of-Center” folks I've met, not knowing Kevin, would see him as a vile misanthropic, “racist.” He could be "the poster image" for "white redneck" in their minds. Funny story, such people have no reasonable frame of reference from which to judge the likes of Kevin Kuhr. It would be best if such people simply thanked those like Kevin, or simply said nothing...and just walked away.

Despite being incredibly non-PC and reveling in making others wife, born and raised in Kingston, Jamaica, once told me, after meeting Kevin, “I was very nervous around him. He never said a word to me. He’s the only guy I get a bad vibe from”...Kevin always rose to the occasion at fires, when needed most.

So, yeah, I get that Kevin certainly gave off a “bad vibe,” mostly by design, I believe. He seemed to want to keep people off him...or, away from him, which IS his right as a free American.

All that said, in my view, from what I saw of Kevin, and it was a pretty large sampling, he was a “VERY good fireman” and that’s the highest compliment anyone can pay another in the Fire Service.

I truly miss Kevin Kuhr. Morrisania should miss him and many others of that generation, as well, the Finer’s Ginty’s Velten’s, Kenny’s, South’s, Fraser’s, Dembry’s, McGowan’s, Tyson’s, Sullivan’s and many, many more.

In Kevin’s case, he did his job quietly, without fanfare and despite having done it without any expression of either affection, or compassion for those in the area we worked, he did it with a real and very deep passion...and did it very well.

No comments:

American Ideas Click Here!