It’s been 20 years since 9/11/2001. I look back at how much things have changed during that time but also on how much they have not. How many remember the saying “Never Forget”?

I, for one, have not. I still remember the smallest details about that day. I was working for a private ambulance service in Northeast Tennessee and had just gotten back to the station after an overnight trip to Birmingham, Alabama with a cardiac patient. I was tired, near exhaustion, and was sitting in the break room dreading the drive home. The phone rang and an off duty paramedic told us to turn the TV on to CNN or Fox.

Thick black smoke rolled out of the North Tower of the World Trade Center, the clock on the wall showed 8:49 A.M. Talking heads on the screen tried to make sense of what was happening. Where had the plane come from, how could this have happened? At first they said it was a small plane, then they started to realize that it was a huge one. At work we debated the response, the options for fighting a fire stoked by aviation fuel that high up.

9/11: The Day of the Attacks - The Atlantic

The second plane, Flight 175 hit the South Tower. A tear started down my cheek. This was no accident and this was no small plane. This was WAR. We were being attacked. It hit me like a punch to the nether regions. I was sad, enraged, speechless. The room was deathly silent, we all knew what this meant. Someone had come to OUR country and had attacked us! That I know of, this was only the third time in our history that this had happened, that a foreign power or invader had entered our county. The last time flung us into a World War fighting on two fronts at once and cost almost a half a million American lives. What would happen this time?

I sat transfixed, starring at the screen. I cried openly. I wanted to scream! I tried to call home only to find that the cell phones were becoming useless. After 5 minutes the call got through, yes she had seen it, no I was still at work, no I don’t know anything else. Papers floated down out of the twin towers from above over New York and I thought how much it looked like a ticker tape parade. I watched police, EMS and fire rushing towards the buildings and thought of a friend I had met a few years before during a three week class in Baltimore who worked in New York City. Was he on duty today? How could I find out? Thirty plus minutes went by, oh dear lord did someone just jump?

Remembering 9/11: The Pentagon Attack - HISTORY

They break away from New York to show the Pentagon in flames. Another plane, this time aimed at our military headquarters. I grew up on Air Force bases throughout the country and had always heard of this massive building. Here it was in flames! Where would it end? I knew people who would likely be responding there as well. Would they make it through the day?

Suddenly the sounds outside changed and we rushed out to see planes descending. Wait a minute, what’s going on? We may be in Tennessee but this area could be target rich, Oak Ridge National labs to the South West, Nuclear Fuels to our South, Holston Army Ammunition Plant and of course Eastman Chemical Company. Any of these would cause death, destruction and most probably a cloud of really bad stuff that would kill thousands. Going back inside we heard that all planes were being ordered down at the closest airports. That meant, hopefully at least, that we had seen and heard planes dropping down to land at the Tri-Cities Airport and maybe even Knoxville and Asheville as well.

By radio and station phone we were told that all employees were being called in. No one knows anything but if something happens, we need to be ready. Then the unthinkable happens, the South Tower falls. A dust cloud covers the Island. What about all of those people? What about the other tower? What about my friend? What about all my brothers and sisters who had rushed to save every one? Who would save them? Realization set in about the deaths. For the second time in one day I openly cried in front of my co-workers. I wanted to find whoever had done this and kill them with my own hands.

Tale of 44 unsung heroes who saved White House in 9/11 attacks

The TV told us of a plane down in Pennsylvania. Had it been shot down or had it crashed for another reason? Was this a strange coincidence? Back to New York, people were running away from the remaining building as even more of my brothers were rushing towards them. Over the years I have unfortunately been on calls where a coworker didn’t make it. My heart ached for them. Then the North Tower came down. I sat there for hours, barely moving and honestly had no real sense of time passing by.

Nobody got out of there unscathed': Thousands continue to suffer from  9/11-related illnesses 14 years after terrorist attack - New York Daily News

Eventually I was told I could leave. Cell phone service was pretty much still shot, there was no way to get a call through to New York and Washington so I still didn’t know about my friends in either. On the way home I listened to people try and explain the scale of what had happened and fail miserably. The entirety of my day is forever crystalized in my brain. When I think of it I can recall all of the emotions, all of the thoughts, the sounds, the smells. Other than the passing of my mother it was by far the worst day of my life and one that will forever remain in my mind.

After I got home I heard Speaker of the House address the Nation: “When America suffers, and when people perpetrate acts against this country, we as a Congress and a government stand united and we stand together to fight this evil threat. Those who brought forth this evil deed will pay the price.” Then members of both parties and both houses sang God Bless America together. For the third time in one day, I cried.

The first time I had cried was more rage, the realization that WE were at war, that someone had done this to US. The second time was sadness because of the overwhelming loss of life, the people at the buildings and the surrounding areas and so many that had rushed to help their fellow man. The third time was because of an overwhelming sense of pride. We had been hit by one of the worst acts in the history of our country yet here we were, a united front. There were no groups, no hyphens, no divides, we were the United States of America! One people, one county, one thought. We ran out of American Flags, the approval ratings of the President and Congress were at the highest point in American history!


A lot has happened since that day 20 years ago. I am going to try my hardest not to point fingers or get political about the why or the how. I am simply going to say what is on my mind.

When I look out at the country I see a wider divide between groups than I ever thought possible. We are much farther apart than at anytime during my life. Ladonna and I talked about this and wondered if this is worse than in the 1960’s or the 1860’s? Since we were not around then we really do not know. Every group on the right and the left seems to have an issue with every other group. They are not liberal enough, not conservative enough, the skin color is different, the beliefs are different. There does not even seem to be two sides but an ever growing number of them as the fractures split like shards of glass.

To be sure there have been upheavals that have tossed and torn us over the last two decades and I am not going to try and get into any of them. What I am going to ask is that those of us that were there, in person or glued to a screen or radio or getting home to hear, remember. Remember what it was like when it dawned on you what was happening, the emotional roller coaster you were on. The lives that were forever changed as mothers, fathers, children were torn away from us. The pride we had for everyday Americans, first responders, military and ordinary citizens alike who rushed in to save as many as they could and the people on Flight 93 who crashed a plane so others could live. Teach our children and their children.

Remember what our flag represents, remember that we are the freest country on this planet, remember what that means and all of the sacrifices over the years that granted us this.

Remember we are the UNITED STATES OF AMERICA!


Mrs. Cheater

A couple of days ago my good friend and running machine put a post on Facebook. She had a picture of a runner she named as Cheater who had just “won” an overall 10K victory.

Mrs. Cheater had signed up for the 10K and then completed the course in 32:17 minutes. If it’s true that is an amazing feat, the world record for females is less than 3 minutes faster. But it doesn’t seem as if it could be true. Mrs. Cheater ran a race two weeks prior and while it was twice as far (a half marathon), her per mile was over 13 minutes in that event compared to just over 5 in this one. Now there was also a 5K race and as it started and finished at the same point it seems likely that was the race that she ran. So at what point does something like this become cheating? Did she simply follow the wrong signs, take a wrong turn, make a mistake? Sure, I can see how that could happen, but what about being awarded and accepting the overall winners award?

Running seems to be becoming rampant with cheating. A quick google search shows that it is widespread. There was one race that I passed the same runner 3 times, always just after a timing mat. She finished several minutes in front of me but I saw her go by once in a car. I really don’t understand it, when I run a race, in reality I’m just running against myself. If I cheat, I’m not cheating anyone except myself. Maybe it’s because I rarely find myself among the leaders? No, if that were true then wouldn’t I be one of the ones trying to cheat so I could get a medal I didn’t earn? Like I said, I just don’t get it.

Again, I was not there and maybe it was a mistake this time but what about all the others? What I do get is that we, the running community need to stand up and do something about cheaters. We should keep an eye out for those that break the rules and report them when it happens. If the race organizers chose not to care then what? Do we hit the social networks about it? If we do then do we go after the runners or the organizers? I really don’t know what the answer is. Maybe Runners World, Run UK or some other group that can reach thousands needs to take the lead and help us decide how best to handle this because if we don’t stop it now, it will only get worse! It’s a matter of character, a matter of honor and this is our sport.

Goldilocks- A Shopping Story

We all know the story of Goldilocks and the bears. But recently, while shopping with my teenage daughter I learned the modern equivalent of the story. It goes kinda like this:

Once upon a time, there was a teenager named Goldilocks.  She went with her family to shop for clothes.  Pretty soon, she came upon a store called Levi’s.  She opened the door and then she walked right in.

On the wall of the store hung many pants but only three she liked.  She tried on the first pair.

“These pants are too small!” she exclaimed.

So, she tried on the second pair.

“These pants are too big,” she said

So, she tried on the third pair.

“Ahhh, these pants are just right,” she said happily but then added, ” but they are the wrong color!”

After she’d looked and looked there were none that were the right color so she she left.  So, she walked into the Marshall’s where she saw more jeans.  Goldilocks grabbed a pair that was the right shade.

“These pants are too big!” she exclaimed.

So she tried a second pair.

“This pair is too big, too!”  she whined.

So she tried the last and smallest pair.

“Ahhh, this pair is just right,” she sighed.  But just as she settled down and started to pay for them she noticed that the pockets were not right!

Goldilocks was very tired by this time, so she went to T.J. Maxx and looked at pants.  She tried on the first pair, but it was too rough.  Then she put on the second pair, but it was too soft.  Then she threw down the third pair because they were too blue.  Goldilocks left the store.

As she was walked through the shopping center she entered a fourth store but didn’t look at pants at all but shirts and jackets and things. This store never has the right size or shade for me in jeans she told her anxious, exhausted family (bears).

“Someone’s been looking at pants everywhere and these are the right color,” growled the Papa bear.

“Someone’s been looking at pants everywhere and these are the size and cut,” said the Mama bear.

“Someone’s been looking at every store and these are not too rough or too soft!” cried the Baby bear.

But Goldilocks wasn’t sure so she tried on other clothes instead.

“Someone’s to picky,” growled the Papa bear.

“Someone’s needs to relax,” said the Mama bear.

“Someone needs to find some food,” cried the Baby bear.

Goldilocks decided to look around some more and so Papa bear growled, “I am kinda hungry too”

“Maybe you should find a place to sit” said the Mama bear

“Someone’s been trying on clothes all day and she still is!” exclaimed Baby bear.

Just then, Goldilocks looked up and saw the pants they had been pointing too.  She screamed, “There they are, I knew I would find them there!”  And she jumped up and ran out of the room to try them on.  Goldilocks ran from the changing room and asked for a credit card.  And she explained that if we had just come to this store, the one she KNEW the pants were at instead of making her go to all the others we could already be home by now!

I Thought I Was Ready

Soo, I was all ready for the return to work and running. I told everyone that I would be back, I had my return to work physical fitness test scheduled, I was back on the schedule. I even had decided that I should video the shaving of the beard, since it’s the most hair I’ve had attached even remotely close to my head since I was… maybe 20?

I had talked to PT, okay, yes I understood that my leg was still weak. Really, only 62% of the other leg? Yes, I agree that I should maybe do some more therapy even when I go back to work to prevent re injury. Then the doctor’s appointment. Disappointment followed. Yes I was progressing well, maybe a little to soon to go back to work just yet. Still weakness, yes some more therapy seems reasonable, no squatting, lifting, or stooping, must be able to sit while working and for no more than 6 hours a day. Yes, he understands that my job is 24 hour shifts and that I have to do all of those things, just not there yet. Come back after some more therapy, almost there.

Yep, I thought I was ready… but to be honest, a two hour therapy session sends me to the couch to prop the leg up. Still there is an end in sight, not much longer, I hope. ;-(


How I miss the open trails and winding paths! Rehab has finally started and hopefully it won’t be long now. It’s hard, doing things like leg lifts and calf raises again, getting the stiffened joint to move.

Today they added the seated bike to the mix. This has to be the most evil contraption know to man. Once the feet are strapped in, the bad knee HAS to bend as the good one straightens. Each rotation brings a new agony. During the work I often think of my running buddy Lilyan… Her hard work, all the therapy she endures. I owe it to her to push with the same resolve.

Home Life

As much as I have moaned and complained about my knee, it might seem as if there was no up side to life lately. The truth is kinda the opposite of that. There really are some good parts going on right now.

Living the EMS lifestyle means long hours away from home and family. When you throw in the time spent traveling to and from, teaching and special events and then top that off with running 30-40 miles a week life can get pretty hectic sometimes. Not that I’m complaining about it, this is the life I chose and the one I love. Still, it has been nice to slow down and enjoy a different pace.

I have not missed a play that Daniel’s been on the field this season in football (and the Warrior’s are kicking some tail, undefeated so far), binge watched TV series and even went to school with Sophia, chauffeured Ladonna to work and become more involved with the men’s group at church.

As much as I miss running and miss work, the upcoming return will mean missing this time I’ve been blessed with.

35 Years Later

Happy Anniversary to me! It just occurred to me that as my birthday looms yet again there is another date fast approaching, my EMS Anniversary. On about the same day, 35 years ago, I joined the Lee County Junior Rescue Squad, Pennington Gap Unit in Virginia. 30 years ago I worked my first shift for a small private ambulance service and was paid for the first time for providing medical care. For the last several years I have had the joy of serving with some of the best in the world at Sullivan County EMS and teaching with the Southwest Virginia Paramedic Program.

Somehow I’ve managed to beat the odds. National statistics show that EMS is such a hard life that the average paramedic lasts just 5 years. Along the way I have changed from the youngest, least experienced person to the ancient one in a blink of an eye. There have been so many changes in the profession and so many hardships and so many people.  I can’t wait to see what the next 35 years hold!


Versed Is My Friend!

Ok, so I think that I am free of the effects of medication enough to write a blog. Evidently earlier today I texted a Deputy Chief at work “Versed is my friend” which might indicate that I am not in the best of conditions.

The staff at the surgery center next to Fort Sander’s Regional in Knoxville was very nice, very professional. After a brief wait it was back to the pre-op and answering questions, changing into a very stylish gown and sitting with Ladonna as various docs and nurses wandered through. I do remember having a nice discussion with the Anesthesiologist about different types of airways, especially supraglottic types such as the LMA and King. I found it refreshing that he wanted to talk about it “with a medical professional that has a different perspective on the issues.”

Dr. Jaquith came by and spoke with us about the surgery to come and then the nurse said she was going to give me a little bit of Versed, not enough to do much. Ladonna said within a few seconds I was thick tongued and then there is no memory beyond that. I really must be a cheap date! I somewhat remember waking up in recovery and the good doctor saying something about he would explain it to my wife. I very clearly remember him asking me to move my toes and saying that it was good they still worked…  Wow, I am glad they are still attached, somehow I didn’t think about that until now but maybe I’m confusing realities, I have been watching a show about Mt. Everest?

Now for the report, mainly from Ladonna…

The piece of stuff free floating must have been sucked up almost immediately as he never truly visualized it. The lateral meniscus must have healed as he thought it would because it was intact as was the ACL. The PCL showed some wear and tear but was intact. The medial meniscus tear was clipped out and some good news there was that he was able to leave some. There is a divot on the lateral side of my femur, most likely where the floating piece came from. All of the surfaces show a pretty good amount of osteoarthritis, perhaps the worst news of all. Then again, it wasn’t like I didn’t know that I had arthritis before this.

A very special thank you to my family and friends and my running buddy Lilyan for their thoughts and prayers for today. And my beautiful Ladonna, for taking care of me and all that you do, you are my blessing. Now to see if I can clear this Versed Fog and in a week or so time for the rehab to began.

Doctor’s Report

Ok, I finally made it to see an orthopedic surgeon about the knee. So here it is in a nut shell. The medial meniscus has what’s called a bucket handle tear (see picture) that has also flipped upside down. This is one possible reason for the popping, locking, swelling and bruising. The second finding Continue reading Doctor’s Report