Dear Mayor Turner,
I hope and trust that you had a great July 4th celebrating our country’s independence. I am making the assumption that you enjoyed a fireworks display with your family. It is my oldest son’s favorite holiday for that reason.
Today is July 6th (well now the 7th as the clock has gone past midnight), and I am writing this a day later than I had hoped, but that is life with four little boys that I am responsible for raising into respectable young men, and an exhausted husband who came off of rough shift with no sleep the night of July 4th.
You see my husband is Fire Fighter/Paramedic for HFD, and he was on shift the day of July 4th. He is back at it today. He is our hero for sure, but we miss him greatly on holiday’s that he often has to work!!! Even if he is not working for HFD (which he was this July 4th), he is often working holidays at his side job, which he must work to afford me the ability to stay home and raise our four boys. Even if I did choose to work, my entire salary would go to childcare.
I know you are under no allusion that I support what you have done to the fire department as of late. The fact that you had fire fighters go out and campaign for you on the promise that you were not going to go after their pension, and then turn around and do exactly that as soon as you secure the office is despicable in my opinion. You took advantage of some of the hardest working men and women on the planet, many of whom work two and three jobs to support their family, but have stuck it out with the hope they could rest in retirement.
The fire department has tried to hold onto their pension for the simple fact that they want it managed well, even if under funded by the city, and it stark contrast to the way the city has managed all other financial endeavors. They have been portrayed in the media as the reason for the city’s financial struggles, but as you know that is false. They are only guilty of having a well managed pension that made others see dollar signs. I am not writing this to hash all of that out though.
The reason I am writing this is to put faces to at least one family that you continue to toy with!
Just a couple of days before July 4th we found out that you snuck in taking away holiday pay for those fire fighters who work federal holidays. What your reasoning is behind this appears to be nothing more than spite, but I can’t say for sure.
When my fire fighter works on holidays I worry about him more than normal, because I know he will be put in harms way more than an average night due to those who have been celebrating all day, and make poor decisions late into the evening. (This July 4th he had to shut down a freeway because of a scene that was unsafe.) I also know he will likely get no sleep at all compared to the normal two hours he gets. I sometimes call him on his cell when I know he will be driving home just to talk to him and make sure he stays awake. The emergency call volume seems to go up on holidays, so besides just the fact that he has to miss so many of them with his family, in my opinion he earns that holiday pay which you have now taken away.
There are also many rumors going around that you plan on switching the shift schedule to three days a week instead of the current two days a week along with other changes. That would further cut pay for many firefighters by affecting their side jobs as well. There is a very small minority of fire fighters that don’t work a second job. Some even work a third job. It would be devastating to our family because my husband would be forced to walk away from the money necessary to keep us afloat.
You have already made your decisions and set in motion many things that directly affect these hard working men and women. You and the city council have celebrated yourselves while families that sacrifice so much are gravely concerned for their futures. (The day on which you chose to do so was in extremely poor taste as well, but I don’t think any of you have considered that fire fighters have huge hearts that actually feel.) The lack of integrity with which you did so is hard to stomach, but it is done.
I just want you to consider these four boys as you make your decisions from this point forward, as well as the dedicated fire fighter you have serving under you.
My husband is an amazing man! I am insanely blessed to know him, much less be married to him. He works a 24 hour shift every other day between HFD and another department to provide for our family. He gets off of shifts without sleep and pushes to stay up to spend time with his boys who beg for more of him. There is nothing quite like the squeal these boys make when daddy gets home in the morning!
There are very few places that we drive in Houston that my husband does not have a story of someone he worked on. Passing a street corner takes him right back to the scene of the accident. There are nights he calls me at 2 a.m., apologizing for waking me, but needing comfort because he is devastated about having to call time of death on a baby the age of our own. I will never know how he manages to see the things he sees, and then come home and live a normal life.
Like most fire fighters my husband does not consider himself a hero, but let me assure you that he is! Sometimes I have struggled to accept the fact that he is. You see I don’t like that he runs into fires. I don’t like the times that he puts himself in harms way in order to help someone else. We need him! Hearing that a roof gave out from under him, and knowing he would have been seriously hurt if not for one of his guys grabbing him and lifting him out as it did so, is not easy for me.
When we first married I thought I didn’t have to worry about him as much because he was riding on a paramedic unit at the time. The call I received that woke me in the middle of the night telling me that he had been stuck with a needle in a moving ambulance after a patient with hepatitis, assured me that was not the case. We went through a year of testing to make sure he had not contracted the disease, which by the grace of God he had not, but it opened this newlywed’s eyes to the extent of the hazards of the job.
When our first born was about two, and he cried to me that he wanted his daddy, I tried to explain to him daddy was at work, and there were people who needed daddy to help them. He looked at me with his tear stained cheeks, and told me that he needed his daddy to help him.
Now our oldest son is 9 and has come to accept that his daddy is a fire fighter, but there are times I notice he doesn’t really want to talk about it. Seeing images of the May 31st fire, and hearing that four fire fighters had died and daddy’s friend, Bill Dowling, who sat next to him in fire school, had been seriously injured, made my son realize that could happen to his daddy. I saw my son forever change on that day. He is extremely proud of his daddy, but I know he worries at times too. Each night when I tuck my boys in alone, we pray for their daddy to make it home safe in the morning.
We went as a family to give our support and watch as my husband stood in the rain at attention in the Wall of Honor as Bill Dowling’s body was brought to the funeral home. I know each one was extremely proud of their daddy that night. Only one of my boys wanted to go with me to the Dowling funeral because the others thought it would be too much for them. My 7 year old who did attend with me told me he was very glad he went, but it was hard for him to hear Forrest and Foster speak about their dad. He told me that part made him tear up. He continues to talk about Bill and says he is a bigger super hero than all of the Justice League and Marvel characters combined. I have to agree!
As a fire fighter wife there is not one of us that doesn’t ache for Jacki Dowling, and know it could happen to us. If it does, we only hope we can walk through it with as much grace and love as she did. We are grateful for each day that our fire fighter comes home, and as they leave for their shift, we cover them in prayer. I have come to terms with the fact that God created my husband to serve people as a fire fighter. I am forever grateful for the opportunity God gave me to be his wife and serve alongside him, although it is not always easy.
Mayor Turner, I know God has allowed you into role as the mayor of the great City of Houston. Romans 13:1 says, “All authority comes from God, and those in positions of authority have been placed there by God.” I praise my God for doing so because I know, “God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.” (Romans 8:28) I know my family was purposed by God to be one of the many families of the Houston Fire Department, and He will work it all for our good.
What I ask of you, Mayor Turner, is to search yourself and your motives especially as you make decisions for the city and the fire department, and as you do remember my sons’ faces. Think about how you will explain to them the decisions you are making that directly affect their future and the safety of their daddy as he goes to work. Walk in integrity holding yourself to your word and the promises you made to our families as you used us to campaign.
My husband is a man of great honor and he serves his city proudly without thanks. Despite what is being taken from him and how it affects his family, he goes to work each day and serves the people of Houston with excellence and heart of love. He would without hesitation sacrifice his safety for your family. I am asking you to simply consider his family.
The members of the fire department are not asking for, nor expecting, free Super Bowl tickets and a salary that matches yours, which you use to provide for your family. They are simply asking for what was promised and is owed them to provide for theirs. Please stop stripping it away!
Please make their safety and their a equipment a priority so that they can serve the people of Houston, and still make it home to their families. When I set my budget each month I have to choose what is a priority and what is excess. The safety of these men and women, as well as the citizens of Houston, is a priority over parks.
Within my budget I also have to pay my debts, which I have in the form of student loans, and I can not steal from someone else to do so. Please stop unfairly using the hard working men and women of the Houston Fire Department to right the city’s wrongs.
Mayor Turner, I remember you in my prayers. I pray that God will move in your heart, and you will be touched by His amazing love for you. You are His child, and He loves you beyond words. God can do so much more than we can ever hope for or dream of. He can balance the city’s budget when we give to Him. I pray He will fill you with His wisdom. May your service to the city be to His glory. Choose what is right.