Welcome to Everything Croton, a collection of all things Croton--our history, our homes, our issues, our businesses, our schools, our houses of worship--in short, EVERYTHING CROTON.To the Editor,
Recently, Mr. Joshua Diamond - a member of the Croton-Harmon Schools Board of Education for those that weren't aware - chose to voice his opinion about a photograph posted to the Croton Volunteer Fire Department's social media site where one of our apparatus had the red/blue line flag on it. Instead of inquiring about it or expressing his concern to the department itself or the Village of Croton-on-Hudson, he knowingly chose to express his opinion in a "community" (and I use that term loosely) group for all to see - and for many to weigh in on the subject. As a staunch supporter of a citizen's First Amendment Rights, Mr. Diamond - and everyone else that has spoken about the subject - is well within their rights to do so, whether we agree or not. That's the beauty of our country, we can freely speak our minds whether we can all agree on a matter or not.
However, I take issue with the way he conducted himself and triggered a snowball effect that has left people on both sides of the debate upset, distraught and angry. Unfortunately, many - if not most - of my colleagues in the CFD feel discouraged, wrongly embarrassed and falsely accused of being bigots, racists, or fascists as some have expressed online. This couldn't possibly be any further from the truth, considering this is an organization of men and women that has taken on the duty to protect and serve this community as well as those we are called upon frequently for Mutual Aid.
We have seen the worst of situations time and time again in our 129 years of existence. Many of us have pulled the mangled and dead from horrific accidents on our roadways, from inside raging fires, and from the bottom of the Croton & Hudson Rivers. We've worked to save the lives of an unknown amount of people over the years from these and other dangerous situations. We have shed many tears, experienced the emotional toll of seeing the worst of situations and sacrificed more than most of you could ever understand. The only other people that can relate to this type of experience, trauma and heartache are our partners in emergency services including EMS and law enforcement. And in case anyone forgets, these three groups of people (especially police and EMS) were the ones on the front lines here in Croton when so many of our friends, family and neighbors were dying or near death at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.
So, you see, we're a different kind of people than the "average citizen." First Responders (even us "wannabe volunteers" as someone so eloquently put it) routinely respond to emergencies not knowing what awaits them, and once they experience these calls where we can't save someone despite the most heroic of efforts, it stays with us. And what occurred over the past year between COVID and the physical, verbal and emotional attacks on law enforcement officers that - in many well-documented cases - also happened to fire and EMS providers, has pushed so many public servants to take their own lives or consider doing so. That feeling of helplessness, depression, bullying and public outcries that all first responders - specifically police - are hateful and won't help certain types of people when the overwhelming majority of first responders perform their duties flawlessly is why now - more than ever - so many of us felt it was the right thing to do to display our solidarity and support for the good law enforcement officers that risk it all for all of us.
While I am not happy we, as an organization, were ordered to remove the flags by the village (specifically Mayor Brian Pugh), I do understand why it was done, although I don't agree that it should have been done. The knee-jerk reaction to make us remove these made everyone feel as though we did something wrong and that the few - two, actually, according to the Mayor - residents that contacted him were more regarded for their beliefs than the many of us. You know, us, the ones that frequently leave our loved ones, miss our kids' sports or school events, sometimes get hurt and frequently risk our actual lives - leaving behind those we love and love us back - to help this community. Our membership feels attacked, unsupported by our village's leadership and basically left to look like we did something wrong when, in fact, we did not. Our only wrong-doing was apparently to take pride in who we are, what we do, showing our support to those we work with daily and for remembering those no longer with us.
While I can appreciate the fact that our flags are the subject of controversy for some and the Village doesn't want them displayed on their vehicles, I, and I think many of us, still have a bad taste in our mouth and are not content that we have yet to hear the words "we support our Croton Volunteer Fire Department, Police Department and EMS" publicly. If they don't support the red or blue line itself, that is their choice, but I think the lack of any form of public address from our Mayor and the Board of Trustees that they know we did nothing with the wrong intentions and that they do actually support what we all do is a simple request for those willing to be hurt or killed protecting this community of ours. As a fourth generation Croton resident and first responder, a parent and a man with absolutely no desire or intention to ever participate in any kind of hate group or bigotry to any group of people, I have been disheartened by all of this and hope all of you that thought there was an ulterior motive to the simple act of flying a flag was not a means to trigger anyone or to offend anyone.
I respectfully ask that the good and decent residents and supporters of the Croton Volunteer Fire Department take a moment to perhaps write your own letter of support of these great people here in this publication, on our Facebook page, email us at email@example.com or even stop by one of the firehouses and just say, "thanks," because our membership feels discredited, disheartened and insulted by this recent negativity. These same members give thousands of hours of their time to our community in training, work details, public relations events and emergency responses and can be credited with saving us all millions of dollars in operational costs and property saved from our aggressive and calculated firefighting efforts - including the large fire at Discovery Cove where numerous units were spared. Our department has a reputation amongst the fire service community in Westchester as being one of the best - something you all should take pride in. So please, if you have a few minutes, please take a moment to extend any gratitude you may have to these wonderful, dedicated, incredible people.
Thank you, and may you all continue to stay safe.
1st Assistant Chief