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August 22-28, 2007

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Letters to the Editor

Firefighters' Grim Reality

Re DeCinzo cartoon July 18 (print edition only): Your cartoon of July 18th was not close to being accurate.

I am a retired San Jose fire captain. In my 25 years of service I responded to about 6 runs a shift or 60 runs a month, 720 runs a year, for a total of 18,000 runs in my career. There are numerous units that were busier than that. On those runs, I received documented injuries resulting in 9 orthopedic surgeries on my knees and shoulders. I recently had both knees totally replaced.

All firefighters are asked to perform extremely physically demanding tasks without warm-up under stressful conditions with lives at stake. At fires, pulling hose, working with heavy ladders and equipment and having things fall on them are part of the job. At accident scenes, removing victims from cars using heavy extrication tools is hard on the body. At medical calls, lifting patients from difficult places causes numerous back and shoulder problems.

What is not talked about is the horror firefighters see on the job. The dead babies we try to save, the children who commit suicide, the accident victims we scrape from cars, the murders we respond to, the families we must deal with when the loved one does not respond to CPR. We all carry a Rolodex in our minds of color pictures that come back to haunt us every time we see something that brings back the memory. These injuries are not seen or treated, but they are there and are more painful than the hurt shoulder or knee.

When you have given CPR to a baby and then told the mother that her child did not make it and when your helmet has melted on your head advancing a hose line into a burning building, you will understand what it is to be a firefighter and then you can start to throw stones.

Michael Simms, Santa Cruz

Laos Trap

Just wanted to thank Steve Palopoli and Richard von Busack for their column/reviews of Rescue Dawn. I read Dengler's book Escape From Laos over 20 years ago and had long given up on a film being made. Much to my shock to see the Epoch Times excellent review and then Richard's fine review. I checked IMDb at that point and discovered the Little Dieter film as well and will definitely try to find it.

I thought the movie was excellent, but would recommend the book as it gives much more detail of course, and is an excellent read. By the way, I can't remember if Rescue Dawn mentions it but "Eugene" and his companions were never heard of again (at least as of book's date of 1979 and 1983 reprint). I don't think Rescue Dawn shows that upon approaching his crash landing site all he saw was 5-foot stumps in the clearing and one tall tree which he hit, tearing his plane apart and a stump barely missing his right leg. Anyway, there were only a few people in the theatre when I saw the film and I am afraid, like a lot of excellent films, this one will be seen by a relative few and the lousy, meaningless trashy ones will be seen by millions. Too bad. Thanks again for your paper's coverage of these two films.

By the way, another fine book in this vein is the story of another immigrant to America—Harold Werner's Fighting Back: A Memoir of Jewish Resistance in World War Two which I highly recommend and should be made into a film as well. This involves Mr. Werner and his fellow Polish resisters' experiences hiding and fighting the Nazis in the forests of Poland, also how they must avoid the local Polish populations who will turn them in to the Nazis. A true adventure story as excellent as Dengler's.

Ron Brackney, Santa Clara

OK, Michael Moore Isn't An Idiot

Re "Nation, Heal Thyself" (Film, June 27): As a longtime conservative who dislikes anything Michael Moore has done so far, this is one issue in which I agree with him. My current jobs insurance plan penalizes employees with higher deductibles according to a physical set to their standards, with no regard to preventive medicine to correct them but to charge more for care—i.e., blood pressure, BMI index, cholesterol, etc., at 500 dollars a pop for each with no doctors' visits covered until deductible met, which include family members. A worker making $30,000 a year has to spend on average of $3,000 before even being covered. Nice plan!

Steven Bridwell, Pueblo, Colo.

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