by: Lou Angeli
Lewes, DE (March 27,
2012) -- I don't know where to start, but first allow me to make this
personal statement. The New York Post, one of America's largest
newspapers, is also one of its worst. It serves up yellow journalism on a daily
basis and "...is best used to line the bottom of bird cages."
Yesterday, Monday March 26, 2012, The Post ran a story about a former
FDNY firefighter, who the paper claims faked a medical condition in order
to retire early and collect a disability pension. For the sake
of this discussion we'll refer to the firefighter as Ray. This news piece hit home here in the First State, because not only is the
story a total fabrication of the lifestyle and activities of a fellow Delaware volunteer, but the
venerable NY Post lifted one of my photos, one that I shot 2 years ago, to illustrate a story on Track Safety at Dover International Speedway.
record, I been photographing firefighting and firefighters for 30 years, and those who know me understand that I would never allow any image or video clip to be used to disparage a firefighter, paramedic, EMT or law enforcement officer. Indeed, I never signed a license allowing the newspaper to use the photo -- and I instructed the writer
NOT TO USE IT on three separate recorded telephone conversations.
Ray is a former FDNY firefighter who had a sterling career, so much so
that officers of Rescue-1 (Manhattan) and Rescue-3 (The Bronx) fought
over him. He served under Capt. Terry Hatton and learned the ropes from
fellow firefighter Joey Angelini, who at 65 continued to hold an honored
spot on Rescue-1's rig. But all of that came to an end on September 11,
2001. Hatton, Uncle Joe and most of Rescue-1's crew were lost to the
towers that day. Ray was off, but responded from home arriving just
before the north tower collapsed.
Although I'm not using the
firefighter's true name, many of you will recognize him by his voice.
When Jay Jonas, serving as Captain of Ladder 6 on September 11th,
reported that he and his crew were trapped but alive, it was the Ray who
responded by radio. "We're coming for you brother...We're coming for
you." Those nine words remain one of the most chilling radio
transmissions from that horrible day.
During Rescue and
Recovery, Ray searched for his brothers day-in and day-out, spending
many, many weeks on the pile. It was hard work but Ray was determined to
bring his colleagues home. His decision to see the mission through had
its ramifications though. Ray started suffering from pulmonary ailments
and after testing, the city released him from service on disability at just 45
years of age.
Fast forward ten years: Ray, now living in
downstate Delaware, became a member of his local volunteer fire company
-- not so much to ride the apparatus, but to work with the department's
junior members. Imagine the quality of education those kids have received!
Because of his rescue expertise, Ray was asked to serve as a consultant to
Dover International Speedway's Track Safety Crew, where he worked with
NASCAR safety personnel to come up with the SOPS for the extrication of
drivers. During the races, Ray drove the utility truck that carried the
rescue tools. But everything about NASCAR is fast, and by the time he would arrive, four other fast response
vehicles were on the track with a total of 16 firefighters -- enough
manpower to attack a well involved room and contents fire.
must have been a slow news day for the New York Post yesterday. Working
on a single tip from a angry individual who didn't care for Ray,
the newsrag ran the following headline "Disabled FDNYer with 95K Pension
Now a NASCAR Rescuer." The writer was Creepy Carl, as he's known by some, a Mr. Carl Campanile. One individual who has been following
Campanile's career notes, "Carl one time was an idealistic journalist,
but after years at the Post he has become nothing but a mindless,
brainless robotron who does the bidding for his master Rupert Murdoch."
The story is written in the first person narrative as if Carl knows Ray
personally. In reality he's speaking for a single individual who called
the paper with a tip -- actually a series of tips, all of which are hearsay. The tips deal with Ray and Campanile ran with the story because the Post seems to discredit
firefighters (and law enforcement) whenever possible.
claims that Ray "may have received his disability...(because) he was
overweight." Well, anyone who knows Ray would never describe him as
overweight at 6' 5" and 200 pounds. Just check out the picture that I
shot -- and the Post ripped off. Curiously, the information and research regarding Ray comes from a sole source -- a whistleblower claims the journalist. Unfortunately,
the whistleblower wouldn't allow the newspaper to release her/his name.
Perhaps Campanile should have done a background check on his source
before ripping into Ray and ruining his life.
The issue of
firefighter salaries, pensions and disability benefits are currently
being taken to task by the press, citizens and citizens organizations.
But how can one fault Ray? It wasn't his decision to leave the FDNY! His salary, pension and other benefits were determined
before he came on the job. And who could have predicted the events of
9/11 and the long term medical issues suffered by tens of thousands of
responders? It was the City of New York who gave Ray his walking papers.
His preference would have been to remain on the job and work into a
command position in special operations. But once a firefighter has been dropped from the roles, there is no appeal process -- no back door to the firehouse.
As for any firefighter
or police officer who was forced to retire on disability, what does the Post and unnamed
sources of information expect them to do? Sit in a wheelchair in front
of the TV? Perhaps have them monitored by webcams 24x7? Any individual, ill or healthy, should be given the
opportunity to pursue a lifestyle that makes them happy, healthy and
whole. That's all that Ray wants. And what better way then by serving
the community by sharing his incredible knowledge of firefighting and
rescue -- whether it's with the young people of Lewes Fire Company, or
the Safety Crew at Dover Speedway.
Ray won't be defeated by a
nameless accuser that's for sure. He's a Firefighter -- a member of the
brotherhood. And if ever a brother needed a lift, Ray is the guy and
today is the day.
Photo of "Ray" which was used illegally by the New York Post. The writer said that "...without the photograph I don't have a story."