Roland/Flatratz: Mystery Solved


Email Belongs to IAFF Manager

Roland, a nom de guerre for an email account operated by an IAFF manager, commented on my post regarding being dismissed from the IAFF Blog Roll.  They made some interesting statements:

1-      “Eric, are you off your meds again? You know what that does to your perspective.”

2-      “I've seen the current leadership support you on issues (dear to your heart) that many of our less progressive members find controversial.”

What both statements have in common is that they are not-so-thinly veiled personal attacks designed to damage my credibility or shut me up.

Would Flatratz feel comfortable saying the same things if they were not hiding behind a fake name?

Regarding the “meds” comment, I wonder if they know the story behind that?

On My Toes

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is extraordinarily powerful, often the result of cumulative exposures with a culminating event.  Some events boggle the mind:

The call was for a traffic accident with people trapped at dusk on a summer night.

We were first-in with engine, medic and heavy rescue; I was on the latter.

We stopped short of the vehicles, one of which was a Ford Explorer t-boned hard enough to be flipped on its left side.

Walking up from the rig you know how you take in that wide angle view to make sure you have the big picture and are not missing anything critical?  Part of my view to the left was of a woman standing about thirty feet away covered in blood and holding a child in her arms.

The medic crew went for her and we headed to the Explorer to see what we had.

I approached the vehicle so that the roof was directly in front of me.  It was pretty high so I had to press my body up against it and go up on the tip of my boots to try to see if anyone else was in the vehicle by peering in the top of the right side window.

Right in front of me, not three feet away, was a small, intact human brain lying next to a child’s car seat.

Union Station

Union Station

To this day I am occasionally brought back to that moment, often when I least expect it.  About a month ago I was in Washington, D.C.’s Union Station grabbing lunch.  It was a busy weekday with crowded trains, Metrorail and buses filling the hallways with people.  I was absent-mindedly looking out across the train hall as people moved rapidly in both directions. 

On the far side of the hallway I kept catching fragmentary and brief glimpses of a small head in a woman’s arms.  It wasn’t a whole picture, more like a repeated single frame from a movie.  Maybe it was the kaleidoscopic effect but I was back at the accident in a second, seeing a lifeless child from another time and place.

Our minds are indelibly imprinted with images of horror intensified by their incongruity. These memories are part of who I am.  They will be with me for the rest of my life.  So, lunch ends early on that day and I move on.


“Dear to My Heart”

Speaking of who I am, Flatratz’s second rejoinder refers, no doubt, to human sexuality.  They said, “many of our less progressive members find controversial.”

It’s 2014, I thought we were past that.

It is prescient that on the eve of our union’s Human Relations Conference that IAFF management are attacking members over behavioral health and sexuality.  It is proof of hypocrisy and the enormous gulf between empty words and destructive deeds.

It is also further proof of the leadership response to healthy dialogue:  roll out personal attacks designed to silence opposing viewpoints.

Was Flatratz being wantonly malicious or just ignorant?

I think just ignorant but I also think managers take their cues from the top.  They see how the “boss” treats the common folk and the institutional culture alters to reflect those views of contempt.

If the goal of the IAFF Human Relations Conference is to eliminate damaging prejudicial behavior and words from our union, they needn’t look far for a place to start.

Flatratz has my forgiveness because ignorance and intolerance are part of the human condition; the challenge is to be aware of it.

(But in the true spirit of the fire house, "Flatratz" should now be their permanent nickname at the IAFF.)



  • Bill Hand says:


    My version of your story is two infants that were burned so bad the skulls were white.  While a young firefighter I happened upon them during overhaul. The mother had padlocked the front door and was down the street at a bar. That was almost 40 years ago and like you say that "picture" as I call it comes up as clear as the day it happened at times when I least expect it. I have made it a point to talk about these things at some point in almost every class I teach to young firefighters.  I want them to know that when this happens to them (it probably will at some point) that they are not crazy and how important it is talk about it with a trusted friend. Usually another firefighter.

  • Eric Lamar says:


    You are SO right.  Very important to be open about it.

    Thanks for sharing.


  • Eric Lamar says:

     I know it is helpful for me to always remember that the REAL IAFF starts just outside the doors of 1750 New York Ave.: our local unions and state and provincial associations who are on their 96th year and going STRONG.

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