Thank you to all who made this moment possible. I do not take it lightly or for granted. Hope you enjoy this little talk.
More to follow…
Union County Fire Academy 2016 Graduation Keynote Speech by Battalion Chief John Alston of the Jersey City Fire Department. Subject: “What is Past is Prologue”.
Special thanks to my Union County Academy Family for the invitation to address the graduates; my esteemed honor and privilege to do so.
One might wonder how a Jersey City fire fighter ended up participating in Junior Fire Fire Fighter Competition in Warren County, North Carolina. No wonder at all. My Dad was born 8 miles from there in Littleton, NC. I was invited to speak at the African American Heritage Festival last year, when they honored Firefighters. There I met some great folks….Fire Chief & Mayor Gardner, Chief Advisor John Franks, Chaplain Stith and J. Greene. As firefighters do, we hit it of. I told them about my years of coming back to North Carolina and about my love for our noble profession.
They shared the workings of the various departments and EMS. Our friendship was formed. Firefighters are the same, all over!
What an excellent couple of days spent with the Warren County (NC) Junior Firefighters, as they hosted the 2016 Junior Fire Fighter Competition. I want to thank Chief Advisor, John Franks for his warm invitation and welcome to share with the Juniors. We spent a great day with them and groups from West Virginia, Tennessee, Kentucky and neighboring areas. The spirit of competition and camaraderie, among the groups and supporters, was a true inspiration. I particularly liked the fact that on several occasions faster team members completed their tasks and rather than run on to complete their “personal best time”, they stayed in the zone and helped their teammates complete their task…an example for us all.
Hoseline tug-of-war competition. This was an exhilarating battle between several young teen groups. Their perseverance and attention to details won the battle for them. Stellar examples of situational awareness!
Learned a great lesson from these young people…don’t give up and rely on your training. There were several times that it looked like the battle would go one way. These young crews dug in and moved the barrel. I over heard a few of the coaches relate these incidents to fire fighting. Telling them how hold the line, work the nozzle and how to back each other up.
Here is a unique chance to see teamwork and team-building, from the host group Warrenton.
There were several other events. I’ll post more when I’m back…
I will miss my friend and Brother, “23”.
Five of us were out of the country last week, training the South African Fire Department – near Durban South Africa, when we got the news of our dear friends passing. I was in the middle of class when I got the text message. After calling to confirm the report and hearing that Engine 19 took the job, I immediately thought of them and prayed for their peace. I know what it’s like to work the job involving a “loved one” and he was loved. I knew that our department and others would never be the same.
I was devastated at the news and knowing that we could not be back in time to make his service; our schedule did not allow us time to grieve and the opportunities to mourn our loss were few and far between. We ended every meal with a toast to our friend and brother, but that was not enough. He deserved more and he was bigger than that.
I pinned these few words to share my own memories:
“To my Friend, Brother and Comrade…Fare Thee Well!
Fare thee well to the one who loved us and loved the most noblest of all professions.
Fare thee well to the one that knew us…to the one that knew us, sometimes, better than we knew ourselves… whose humor, character and being “lived for the job”!
Fare thee well for the constant and immeasurable lives he saved through his words and deeds…he knew so much and shared all.
I will miss my friend of 40 years. While growing up on Orient Avenue, our families met. His family owned a local business. He went to school with my sister Susan. When it was time for my oldest son, John, to get his first haircut. It was Uncle Ira that held him and consoled him in the barber’s chair, because Cheryl couldn’t watch and of course I had to hold the camera. When my son Malcolm came on the job, it was Uncle Ira who, proudly”, gave him his first badge, matching wallet and keychain. We were friends, but it wasn’t until I joined the JCFD, when I “Got On The Job” that we became brothers.
It was then the team of “Blackman & Rubin” was formed. For a short time I was the P.I.O. and caring for my ailing Mother-in-Law. I would be concerned that I might be delayed in my responses to jobs, from time to time. I shared that with my Brother Ira. Without my asking, he gave me an extra radio, scanner for her house and put the Gong Club Frequency on them for me to monitor jobs. He would give me a ” heads up” en route on the current jobs and incidents. He knew “who was who in the zoo…” He advised me on who I could trust and whom I should just leave alone.
He elevated the job and always had its best interests at heart. He had the heart of a Fire Fighter. He was a wealth of information. He just knew things and we challenged each other constantly. (Him winning all the time.) He saved so many JCFD “Jobs” with the kindest reminders.
There will never be another “FJ” (Those that know the meaning of those initials knew him best).
Fare thee well…my mustachioed, cigar smoking, FD loving, kilted Bagpipe playing, US Marine (thank you for your service), Rescue 1 Chauffeuring (Oops- another Ira Rubin story), Jeopardy Champion, Fire Historian, Quartermaster, Plant Manager, Fire Buff Extraordinaire, Dispatcher of the highest order, Scholar, Brother, Friend and Comrade…
“23”, you are already missed. “23”, our hearts ache for your passing, yet our lives were made better for our knowing you.
Fare thee well “23”….See you on the other side!
Your Brother from Another Mother… (as you last said to me)…
“CHIEF of the First Battalion, arriving on the scene, with the rest of the companies!”
FR. James Pagnotta wrote: The Jersey City Fire Department lost its “soul mate” with the Thursday morning untimely passing of Ira Rubin!
Ira was a fire buff extraordinaire, a main stay of the Jersey City Gong Club, bag piper “without portfolio,” an avid and accurate Fire Department Historian, and a friend to all.
Serving as Jersey City Fire Chaplain for the past 39 years, it was my honor and pleasure to both know and work with Ira. He was a “matzoh ball” in kilt who played more fire/police funerals in Catholic churches after the horrific 9/11 attack than people could ever imagine. An enthusiastic member of the Archdiocesan St. Florian mass committee, he traveled near and far to honor those who served and made the “supreme sacrifice”
As the Fire Department historian he forgot more fire history than some people could even imagine. He was a pleasure to work with when we established, with the assistance of the Fire Officers and Firefighters Unions, the “Wall of Honor and Eternal Flame of Bravery” at Jersey City’s Fire headquarters. He spent untold hours researching library and cemetery records to ensure all accuracy was present and proper honor was given to those who served and gave their lives.
Ira could light up one of his big cigars and entertain for hours with story after story of fires and fire fighters never missing a flame or act of bravery.
A devoted son, who attended an ailing mother with tender loving care and friend anyone could turn to for help with facts, badges, shields or needs.
Ira’s flame of life has now expired and but fire of his spirit shall live as long as the JCFD continues to serve this community.
Let us give thanks that Ira piped his tunes and tales, kept the records straight and made known the good and heroics deeds of so many.
Mazel tov Ira for a life well lived but oh too short!
REV. JAMES V. PAGNOTTA
CHAPLAIN JERSEY CITY FIRE DEPARTMENT
PASTOR, ST. JOSEPH CATHOLIC CHURCH
Link to news article: Ira Rubin Remembered
I joined the Fire Smoke Coalition years ago. It was not until I got their information at FDIC (www.fdic.com) and reviewed it that I found a wealth of resources that can change firefighters lives.
The mission of the Fire Smoke Coalition is to focus the required attention and resources on the deadly and life-long consequences of breathing fire smoke by teaching firefighters and first responders how to Prevent, Protect, Detect, Diagnose, and appropriately Treat the exposure if it occurs. The Coalition is comprised of firefighters and the medical community – all who embrace the challenge of teaching firefighters how to stay alive – and prevent the disease, illness and death associated with today’s deadly fire smoke.
This post links you to an interview I had with the organizations Executive Director, Shawn Longerich. Her candor and passion for firefighter safety permeates this discussion.
Please visit: www.firesmoke.org for further information and resources. Support the cause that is focused on firefighter safety and health. We can do better!
Shawn Longerich, Executive Director
Some people say that the toughest change or transition for them is from firefighter to officer; it would be the same in any profession or industry, when you move from worker to supervisor. Just as in the private sector the move and transition is task, role and responsibility specific. In some cases it is even physical…
In most professions, a promotion is seen as a reward. In our industry it is more function specific.
You may go from driver to the other front seat with no controls; driving in a vehicle all alone or be driven by an aide. I have ridden in all of them. Each has its place and each has its own unique perspective.
In my profession people say that the toughest change or transition for them is from firefighter to officer
They may be right if:
– You weren’t serious about the job or your responsibilities, to begin with.
– You didn’t make the investment in yourself to study and become proficient
– You don’t like people (the ones you serve or the ones you serve with)
– You are one of the guys/gals and can’t distinguish between leader / follower
– You lack the courage to change yourself and circumstances when needed.
I don’t want you to think that I am bashing anyone or being cruel. I’m not. Some Officers are honest and tell me that they went for the higher rank, solely, for the higher pay. (To me, that’s wrong… although not criminal…and now I’m off the soap box)
There are other reasons for this. I have had the pleasure to work with and speak to hundreds of fire officers in the last thirty years. Each of them brings something unique to the office and many bring the same thing. I am finding more and more that they are tool and task focused, as opposed to the overall operation or mission.
When you make the change, there must also be a transition.
You must understand your role and responsibility.
So, if you are a person aspiring to be an officer or manager:
If you are already that person and not sure:
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