To the Editor: Because I was a member of FDNY EMS during part of the time Thomas Von Essen was Fire Commissioner, I would have laughed had the working conditions been so abhorrent. If Mr. Von Essen (Feb. 19 article) is earnest in saying that EMS workers are still treated as second-class citizens, perhaps he should acknowledge his complicity in perpetuating that situation when he was commissioner.
During his time in office, the number of non-FDNY ambulances in the 911 system increased exponentially, while FDNY units were removed from the system. A large number of the ambulances going into the system were operated by a company whose owner made large contributions to Rudolph Giuliani's campaigns for Mayor.
By the time Mr. Von Essen left office, FDNY ambulances comprised less than half of the total operating in the 911 system. Did he agree with this? Did he advocate for his second-class citizens? Or, did he just keep quiet and go along because he knew which side his bread was buttered on and did not want the Mayor to remove him from the position he appointed him to?
In late 2000 or early 2001, shortly after I was appointed as an EMT, an EMS crew was observed sleeping on duty. During a press conference shortly thereafter, Mr. Von Essen said that he "wanted to break their windshield with a baseball bat," and suggested that the citizenry do the same. He certainly did not seem to harbor the same fraternal feel-good emotions then that he expresses now. Can he possibly fathom how everyone on the job at the time felt when our boss advocated violence against his "second-class citizens?"
For that matter, one need look no further than his own autobiography in which he stated that he perceived EMS as disorganized and in need of better training.
Given these realities, one can understand why I look askance upon his fond feelings for EMS now. I suppose the best way to sum things up is that a broken clock still tells the right time twice a day.
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