Life Happens For Us, Not To Us
By: Gerry Shannon, Director
This is the last article I’ll write in my career as a member of Local 798’s Executive Board.

I’ve been on the Board for 8 years. During that time I’ve gained some insight into the group consciousness. Answering questions and fielding complaints is a way to become aware of how a lot of us think and react. As a whole, firefighters are a compassionate cross-section of society. If we perceive we’ve been wronged, the feelings that come up are passed around and bolstered on a group level. What I’ve learned on a personal level is that 90% of the impending disasters we see coming our way never show up, and that because of our anger, we lose sight of all we have.

We may have the thought that something to which we were entitled we don’t now own. It may be true, or we may be entitled to what we have; job security, a living wage, no one telling you what to do 5

days/week, and society as a whole, praising the honorable and dangerous profession you call yours.

I feel so fortunate to have been blessed with this heavily sought after profession, and I have since the day Chief Murray pinned my badge on this blue wool shirt. There isn’t much I would change about the last 30 years; doing what I’ve loved to do and working with people I enjoyed. Most of all, it was an adventure.

The message I’ve tried to relay has been one of appreciation for what we have. To look for the similarities in your fellow workers instead of the differences and that hatred and prejudice are the most destructive forces in the universe. “When the doors of perception are cleansed, the truth will show through.”

Our characteristics, strengths and weaknesses make us who we are and we can all learn from each other. From Hedgehog downtown on “The Squad” to Lt. Ahern out at Station 9, we are a unique blend who, when it’s on the line, count on one another for our very lives.

I’ve learned that in spite of our differences we are a family who work, live and depend on each other as no outsider could understand and in the inter-connectedness of us all.

This noblest of professions has been such a gift in my life I wanted to give back, in some way, through our Union and it’s been an action-packed 8 years. I’ve listened to the Union being maligned for battles it either lost or couldn’t fight because it wasn’t in our arena, and usually from people we didn’t see much of. The leaders I served with: Fergi, Ahern and Hanley, although different in style and personality, all accomplished monumental gains in the stature of this proud Union and in the compensation we receive.

There is no perfect world and we can all find things to complain about if we’re looking, but one would have to look far and wide to match the benefits of this fire department I love. To those who helped along the way such as the house stewards (a thankless job) and those members who showed up at most meetings, and at campaign time to do the work, thank you for all you’ve done!

Thanks too to the dedicated people in the office and to Father Green for his selfless giving.

For those few to whom it was just a job, sorry you missed it.

I leave January 1st for India and Nepal, but I will always have the memories and interest of the San Francisco Fire Department in my heart and mind. Look at the city seal on those red rigs closely and at the men who have worn this badge before you. Think of what they have stood for.

I wish everyone the opportunities I have had in a job that I always thought was custom-made for me. It’s the dedicated people in the SFFD that have always given it character; the real firefighters. My hope is that it never changes. Be proud of this great tradition. Keep it alive.


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