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Sunday, September 11, 2016

9/11/2001: Remembering Captain Danny Levy and all the heroes of 9/11

Fifteen years ago today the world stopped turning.  Many people left their homes that morning, kissing their children and their spouse good bye, not realizing it would be their final kiss in this life time. Their family's life was about to change forever.  Others suffered from 9/11 related cancer and died years later but the events of 9/11/2001 certainly changed their lives and the lives of their families forever.  Today I am remembering one of those who contracted a 9/11 related cancer and was lost 13 years after that tragic day.  Captain Danny Levy of the Plainview Volunteer Fire Department.  Captain Levy spent weeks after 9/11 working to recover the remains of those lost.  First lets recall the events of that day.

At 8:46 a.m. EST the world changed forever when a plane struck Tower 1 of the World Trade Center in New York City.  At 9:03 a.m. the second tower is hit. At 9:37 a.m. another jet crashes into the Pentagon. At 10:03 a.m., a plane headed towards the White House or the United States Capitol Building, crashed into a field near Pittsburgh.

Deaths that day approached 3,000 with over 6,000 injured.  Included in those numbers were 343 firefighters responding to the World Trade Center.  This was the largest number of casualties for F.D.N.Y. in any one day.  Even today, fifteen years later, the causalities mount as brave men and women are still dying from 9/11 related cancer.

This hits home because as a young man I was a member of the Plainview Volunteer Fire Department. My brother is a past Chief of that Department and responded to the World Trade Center on a mutual aid.  We were fortunate my brother survived and is fine today.  Another member of our Department eventually succumb to 9/11 related cancer his name is Captain Danny Levy.

Danny Levy has a unique story.  He was a veteran of the Israeli military and joined the Plainview Volunteer Fire Department in 1999.  He loved the United States and its people. He wanted to make a difference.  Danny was a man who put others before self. He made many trips to ground zero to work recovering victims.  He told family and friends that if before 9/11, he would have known he would have developed a 9/11 related cancer that would take his life, he would have still made those trips.

Captain Levy was a dedicated man, a hero, one of many.  I choose to write about Captain Levy this year as he is a man I got to know after 9/11. When I would visit the Plainview  Volunteer Fire Department on my trips home and Captain Levy was always welcoming. In spite of his suffering he always had a smile on his face and a good word for all. Captain Levy was a fine human being, a true inspiration and a wonderful leader.

Right up until the end Captain Levy was a firefighter, a teach and a caring human being.  It is fitting that his final Facebook post just hours before his death was a picture used in firefighter training his comment "If you can read the smoke, than you know that this room is about to ignite any second now, so, jump or die burning."  Ironically, his final message was one designed to save the lives of his brother firefighters.

In the years to come I will try to put a human face on the tragedy of 9/11 and hope that we truly never forget.  God bless, Captain Levy and God bless all the heroes of 9/11.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Fathers as Leaders

Fathers as Leaders

This article is dedicated to my Dad
Fred L. Tousey
Gone way too soon but remains an inspiration.

Two years ago I wrote a popular article entitled “Fatherhood: The Sad Reality of the Absentee Father.”  That article discussed the adverse effects of a fatherless home.  Today’s article will consider why fathers are so important and how fathers can be more effective leaders in their families.

In the Sad Reality of the Absentee Father we noted that former Maryland Governor Bob Ehrlich’s often recalls his many visits to the state’s juvenile and adult correctional facilities and how the majority of the inmates were males from fatherless homes. This observation finds support in a 2007 article by then Maryland Delegate, now State Senator Joanne C. Benson in which she noted that 85% of youth in prison are from fatherless homes.  Other startling statistics noted by Senator Benson include that 63% of young people who die by suicide, 71% of high school drop outs and 75% of all adolescent patients in chemical abuse centers are from fatherless homes.  Senator Benson observed that young men are in desperate need of positive role models and the presence of strong focused men in their lives.  She also noted this is not to say females or mothers should not be part of the equation.  Had it not been for the strong presence and influence of the female, more children would have fallen through the cracks.  In fact, I experienced this in my own life.  My dad died shortly before my ninth birthday so I missed out on his mentoring, guidance and counsel through those critical teen years and as I began a family.  I certainly missed out on key benefits I would have had if he had lived.  I was however one of the lucky ones who had a strong mother who was able to fill some of the gaps.  While I had some key failures, I also benefited from the strength my mother demonstrated.  However, there was no way she was able to serve as a role model on how a man treats a woman.  I could not seek her advice on key relationship issues which are male specific.  There was no way she could have those conversations only a dad can have.

Now that we have established the critical role a father plays in life of his children we can consider how a man can be a better and more effective leader and role model.

Many people misunderstand what a leader is.  Some feel a leader should intimidate others and bark orders.  This however is not biblical leadership and it is not the way God commands men to lead. Domestic violence and abuse is not biblical leadership.  

How then does God command men to lead ?  Let’s examine Ephesians 6:4 (ESV) which teaches us “Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord.”  Adam Clark in his commentary relating to this verse states “…Parents are called to correct; not to punish, their children. Those who punish them do it from a principle of revenge; those who correct them do it from a principle of affectionate concern.”

In that leadership should always have love as its foundation we gain further insight on how to lead in 1 Corinthians 13:4-7 (ESV):

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.  Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.  It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

What we see in these verse is that God calls men to be patient, kind, trustworthy and instructs us not to easily anger.

As leaders, fathers must be humble and willing to allow the members of their family to use and develop the gifts God has given them.  This requires that men delegate some of their responsibilities to those family members who are gifted in those areas.  Fathers must also be willing to admit fault when they are wrong.  Fathers need to be servant leaders, leading by example rather than by command.  Fathers must also be able to resolve disputes by consensus rather than by edict.

It is essential for fathers to take the spiritual lead in the family.  Fathers should humble themselves by getting on their knees and praying in front of their family.  Fathers need to attend worship with the family.  Fathers must make every effort to live a Christian life and when they fail to do what is necessary to make things right.  Most times the recovery from failure is a more important lesson than doing it right the first time. 

Fathers must honor their wives. They need to show appropriate affection to their wife and children.  Fathers need to publicly demonstrate appreciation and respect for his wife’s role in the family.  Fathers must also publicly recognize the achievements of the members of his family.  Fathers must remember the words of Proverbs 20:7 “The righteous who walks in his integrity— blessed are his children after him!” and demonstrate integrity in all that he does.

This article is not intended to be an exhaustive analysis of how God calls fathers to lead but is intended to plant a seed that hopefully will promote further study and discussion.

Dads remember we are not Supermen.  We cannot do this alone.  Seek out other Christian men to provide counsel and guidance.  I belong to a Men’s group at church and this has been a valuable resource to me.  Each men is at a different stage in his walk and come from diverse background.  This diversity in experience and background provides a wonderful resource and has certainly helped me grow as a man.  God bless and happy Father’s Day.