Of Sex and Suicide: Fairfax Couplings

Mittendorff Found

VA-Fairfax-County-seal

The body of Nicole Mittendoff, Fairfax firefighter, was located in Shenandoah National Park and the cause of death has been ruled a suicide by hanging.

News reports suggest that anonymous postings on the site Fairfaxunderground about sexual activity may have led to her death.

The postings are being characterized as an act of “cyber-bullying.”

Statter911 has referred to them as “sexist and lurid.”

Male firefighters crow about their sexual exploits with female firefighters and paramedics and then refer to them as whores suggesting that consensual hook-up sex is a male right only.

Perhaps they are just jealous or hypocrites, or both.

Sex and Pleasure

The recent Fairfaxunderground postings are heavy on Christian marriage vow morality while calling Mittendorff out for apparently having multiple partners, perhaps some of whom may have been fellow employees.

For those assertions, if true, she is branded a “whore” or worse.

Her accusers, while seeming to adopt the moral high ground, remain anonymous, thereby proving that their charges lack the courage of transparency and legitimacy.

They preen, scold and malign behind their cloak of cyber secrecy, cowards all.

Sex with or without the vows of marriage doth make a lass a whore while laddies can’t shut up about the last time they sprayed their seed around.  And,  a blowjob doesn’t even count.

It’s About Power, Stupid

The essential and defining characteristic of the much mustachioed and leather topped firefighter is his epic virility.

The firehouse and fire itself were once bastions of maleness and Nicole and those of her ilk have smashed that hazy daguerreotype into  a million pieces.

Their punishment is to be branded as sluts for possible consensual sexual activity, the same sex freely enjoyed by their male counterparts.

There can be little doubt that this sudden sexual prudishness is really about damaging and degrading the role of women in the fire service.

Ironically, the lads have forever claimed a double standard where the presence of women is concerned and now they employ one themselves where they are the most vulnerable:  their (losing) battle to keep their dicks in their pants.

The fiery Luddites have sensed a phony morality-based power play and they are working it behind the scenes, eunuchs that they are.

Judge ye be not judged.

Tight Rope

Fairfax Fire Chief Richard Bowers issued a statement yesterday where he referred to the department as his (it isn’t) and then tried to buy time by saying, “…right now we ask that we be allowed to grieve the loss of one of our own.”

Admittedly, it’s a close call to ferret out threatening behavior from the legitimate expression of free speech, especially where the internet is concerned.

Bower’s first act should be to provide a report covering the last five years detailing every effort he has made to keep Fire & Rescue Department members trained up on workplace tolerance and anti-harassment and bullying.

Publish the general orders and training materials proving his commitment and give us the exact number of employees reached and the dollar amounts expended on the initiative.

Labor is on the hook too.

What has Local 2068 done to ensure a safe and equitable work environment?

Commitment to the Future

Nicole Mittendorff’s act of desperation is in fact a renewed call for justice and equity.

Let’s not let anonymous cowards employing phony and unfairly applied sexual rules destroy the vision of a progressive and fair Fire and Rescue Department.

 

52 Comments

  • Bob Cetta says:

    Absolute CRUMBS!!! THEY SHOULD BE FIRED! Our profession is based on values such as strength of character and integrity. If it is discovered that the posts were made by members of the firefighter community, both career and volunteer, the repercussions should be swift and decisive, both from the appropriate departments and the fire community at large! In addition, who knows if these accusations and derisive comments are even true! We all know plenty of “firefighters” who spin a tall tale as adeptly as an 9 year old child. I understand and completely agree with your point of putting the department to task on their responsibility and commitment to a safe and equitable workplace but, this is also a common sense and decency issue which falls squarely on the members. The first sign of a flawed character is commonly exposed by how a person speaks of others. When you add the anonymity of a keyboard and computer screen you find all sorts of self righteous and courageous souls willing to testify to the flaws of others. If these individuals are identified as fire service members, contrite apologies and displays of remorse will not be enough, they have revealed themselves to be sorely lacking in character and integrity and there is no place for them in the fire service.

  • Cathie Cody says:

    oh, where to begin? there has been sexual harassment/EEO training since the time I was hired more than 30 years ago. And for many of those years, the local has always been a place where one could go to air grievances and look for peer backup against management overstep.

    However, in practice, we have had such a contradiction about women in the fire service from day one — genuine support interspersed with lip service backed up by inexplicable policies that either left you adrift or made you look like an idiot.

    Example: In the 1980s, I was a haz mat tech assigned to RS01. Squad 26 was out of service for a period, so we were often sent to FS13 to fill in. While I was qualified to strip down naked on the Beltway for decon (there were no showers then — only plastic kitty pools and wheel brushes — really), I was required to return to FS01 every night and be replaced by a guy because FS13 had no ‘approved female facilities’ . And yet female volunteers slept there every night in an ambulance bunkroom.

    Oh, I could go on. But I found that essentially all of the problems that have faced the fire department over these years has been a lack of leadership at one level or the other. This goes from training issues, testing irregularities, promotional schedules, etc. And when there is a lack of leadership, true or imagined resentment among subordinates grows. Things then go downhill quickly.

    Working with a series of officers, I learned some things about leadership. True leadership is found when there is a balance between intellectual development, physical strength, on-the-street experience and character. And all four components must be equally developed. You can’t cut corners and you can’t overly rely on, say, bench pressing 250 pounds to make up for lack of street experience. But the most important one of all is character. That’s why some little guys have made great generals. Character is the rock that holds the group together and makes every member feel valued and protected. The military has known this for centuries, and it’s time for the fire service to value it, too.

    I also found that the fire service seems to attract two main types of men (this is, of course, a huge over-simplification, but it is helpful for the issues at hand) (1) The first type is what I could simply call ‘complete men’ who aspire to the four components of leadership above. The department’s first big hiring push in the 1970s brought in a good number of veterans who had fought in Viet Nam, so they’d learned some of life’s lessons and had literally been under fire. This showed as they became officers and influential chiefs and shift leaders. They knew the value of learning one’s craft, did not believe in short cuts, and took their time gaining rank. We are fortunate that some members of a new generation, many of whom are young veterans, are having a similar influence on today’s department.

    The second group of men that come to the fire service is quite different. They have had limited life experience and aren’t even aware of the four leadership qualities that I outline above. They’ve never been under fire — even verbal fire –, are in a big hurry to gain rank and suffer from a sense of entitlement. So, if you feel entitled to something but aren’t willing to work for it (immaturity), the result is resentment.

    The subject of one’s resentment(s) is an elastic thing. It may be fat people, people from other cultures, your neighbor. It really doesn’t matter. It’s just identifying whatever scapegoat to try to explain away one’s feeling of failure and inadequacy. And women have served this purpose for a long time.

    So we come to the questions that must be asked head on: Did these guys really think that being, let’s say, fundamentally ungentlemanly makes them seem greater, seem more worthy as men? Really? Explain to me how you could trust a ‘big-boy blogger’ who shames a person for doing exactly what the blogger had done — and did it WITH the blogger? What does that say about the blogger’s self control and leadership ability? What does that say about his character? Most importantly, what does it say about our collective character, that this blogger thought we’d be impressed?

    The issue is not whether she did/she did not. It’s not about the presence of immature cowards who hide behind a screen. It’s also not about how can women be ‘protected’ or what we must do to ‘avoid’ such tragedies. These problems take care of themselves when department leadership at all levels — from the individual firefighter to the fire chief — continuously addresses the issue of character, making it as important as top test score or prowess in the gym. It’s a tough assignment, as test scores and gym weights are measurable numbers, while the issue of character is elusive to many and unattainable to some.

    The death of Nicole has diminished all of us. Could we have helped her? Why did she feel she had no other way out? Are there others in the station who are similarly hopeless and isolated? Have we done everything in our power to make our own character shine as an example?

    The first step is indeed addressing and identifying our little blogger boys, making sure they realize in no uncertain terms that their tiny dicks are only diminished by their actions. And then we begin the real work of doing a better job of rescuing all the rescuers.

    Leadership without character is an empty badge — life without character is an empty shell.

    • Sasha Kazmar says:

      Ms. Cody. I’ve been with Fairfax’s FD for 10 years now, I’ve heard many stories like yours from women who are now retired or are getting ready to leave. However, I spoke with women who were hired around the same time as I did and none of us can say we were victims of anything that even comes close to what you went through. Nicole was my friend, I knew her before our FD life. Unfortunately she made a mistake of putting herself in a bad situation that started it all. She made one mistake and paid the price no one should ever have pay. I’m still in disbelief about this whole situation… But like I said earlier, today this case is a very rare exception. I’m sure guys joke around behind our backs but I can honestly say I have never felt disrespected by my male co workers. And many women of my length of service feel the same way. Of course there’s joking and hazing but it’s nothing that can make a solid EEO complaint. We are all outraged that things like that still happen in 2016. But they are extremely rare. I cannot even begin to express how greatfull I am for women like you who paved the way for younger generation of women in this department. For all you went through and what you did- I thank you ma’am. God bless.

      • TJ says:

        Hi Shasha. I’m sorry for the loss of your friend and coworker. I retired 5 years ago after 25 years on the job. When I was still working I would complain to my family about things that happened at work but if anybody else asked me, things were always “great”. I thought if anybody else knew certain things I would be thought of as a problem child or a whiner. I thought maybe I deserved some of the treatment because I was in “their world”. I hope the women of your generation don’t feel that way and I hope most departments don’t have the culture that mine did. Five years post retirement I think back about things that happened that weren’t professional and caused me distress. If I wrote the story now, I think civilians would be shocked but at the time I considered it all hoops I had to jump through. I didn’t complain because I didn’t want the wives and kids of those co-workers to suffer for their stupidity. I didn’t want to make things worse for myself or cause trouble for the guys that were professional and supportive. Also, I wasn’t perfect so I wasn’t sure I wanted all eyes on me anymore than they already were. I don’t feel comfortable giving my real name, even after all these years and I apologize for that. Wishing you a long a healthy career! It’s the best job in the world.

        • Pam Cook says:

          I’m proud of you TJ. You spoke out. Keep your head high. Young women will learn and grow from the generous sharing of your experience. Gender discrimination and sexualization in the workplace is far-reaching and often leads to unintended consequences. 

          I’m pleased to realize I didn’t burn all my bras in the sixties for nothing. Continue on ladies. 

    • Paul Grant says:

      What a great reply. Very well written and everyone in any business or service could learn from your post. My hats off to you Cathy Cody.
      Paul Grant

    • Mike says:

      Sasha, you don’t sound like much of a friend. If Nicole saw your post would she think of you as a friend. In fact, you sound like a part of the problem. She put herself in a bad place? Really? You remind me of every person I’ve ever known who will defend the status quo no matter what.

  • Spartacus says:

    How do we know harassment was a factor? Eric cites, “news reports SUGGEST…MAY HAVE led…” (emphasis mine). No argument that the comments are the worst. No argument from me that the perpetrators should be flayed alive. Maybe Nicole didn’t give a shit about anonymous postings. Maybe Nicole faced a greater harassment in the form of a predatory command officer. Maybe a lot of things. Maybe we’re all looking for someone to blame when, really, there was nothing any of us could have done. Maybe we should blame ourselves for not seeing the clues. Maybe we should blame our predecessors for not handling the predatory command officer 20 years ago, or 10 years ago, or 3 years ago. Maybe we should stop blaming others and start improving ourselves.

    Oh, and PS to Cathy about the bunkrooms…pretty sure it wasn’t the men that caused the uproar about ‘approved’ female facilities.

    • Eric Lamar says:

      Spartacus:

      You speculate as I do but in defense of the status quo as you, like they, skulk about in anonymity. Isn’t it ironic that you can refer to both Cathy and I by our names while you lack the courage to give yours?

      Your anonymous comments receive the weight and merit they deserve: none.

      E-r-i-c L-a-m-a-r

  • Karen Parr says:

    FIRE THEM!!!!

  • Robert says:

    AT THIS POINT IN TIME I THINK INSTEAD OF CASTING STONES, WHY NOT OFFER SOME FORM SOLUTION FOR WHATEVER PROBLEM YOU THINK EXIST, THAT WAY FROM THIS DAY FORWARD GROWTH WILL TAKE PLACE DEPARTMENT WIDE.ROBERT D.HICKS /THAT WAY IT WILL ALL BE GOOD.

  • Gino Crump says:

    Bravo Cathie! Brilliant synopsis. You are just as insightful and eloquent as you have ever been. Its a sad day for Fairfax County Fire and Rescue. God bless her family.

  • I’m very grateful to those of you who have taken time to share your thoughts regarding the loss and Sister Mittendorf and what may have lead up to this tragic event. Personally, I find myself full of resentment and feel at a loss where to direct it. Having served Fairfax Fire and EMS for almost 40 years, I know that our department could have and should have done more. I have sat and listened to absurd remarks from the very people Eric characterized in his post for years. I have witnessed exactly what Catherine shared time and again without feeling that we have made progress in the development of real and genuine equity among my peers. I have witnessed racism, homophobia, sexist and predatory behavior among a population of people who refer to each other as Brother and Sister. I want to believe that I have done as much as I could do to provide a remedy to the bull shit that ails this Fire Department that has given me so much. But I can’t help but feel I could of/should of done more. I do strongly believe that this conversation should continue, maybe, in a broader more open forum until we purge ourselves of all of the poison in each of us. While I have a desire to beat the dogshit out of those cowards who may have contributed to Nicole’s decision to harm herself I know that is not the answer to the long term health of our department. It’s refreshing to me to witness a dialogue on this thread between retired and active members of our FD and I see this as hopefully a real contribution to our collective healing process. I do expect something more from our FD and Local 2068 leadership. A broader more open forum where we might come together and respectfully resolve all of the issues that might have prevented this tragic event. In the mean time I will search myself to see if I personally could have done more.

  • Pam Cook says:

    Thank you Eric for providing a safe and trusting forum. The bravery shown by the Fairfax Firefighters writing here, unafraid to post their identity, is inspiring. Their words promote the responsibility to continue the struggle for women’s rights while asserting the reality that women must actively participate in personal dignity and identity. They are protecting the destiny of my great granddaughters planning to follow the footsteps of their great uncle. My son-in-law is a respected FD officer in my great state of Oklahoma. Unfortunately in the age of generalizations and extremism, there will be those who now will question the motives and character of all emergency personnel. I hope the department will also include a course of “logic and reasoning” to their continuing education. Throwing in a refresher of “common sense” to the curriculum might be of use.

  • Dave Lyons says:

    After reading some of the awful comments regarding Sister Mittendorf, including some that were posted after her death became known, I am incredibly grateful that Eric, Mike and others are still around providing a voice for basic human decency and brotherhood- the supposed ethos of the profession we chose.
    I expect bureaucratic cowering from management. What I am most interested in is the reaction from my union, which I have been a member of for 39 years. It is a near certainty that members are involved. I am would like our union to send the right message here, and do so right away- something that I know Brothers Lamar and Mohler would have done.

    • Christine Penska Cournoyer says:

      Bravo Dave! This has been happening for all too many years. Time for the Department and the Union to enforce a “zero tolerance” policy. On and off the job. Last I checked “creating a hostile work environment” and “harassment” are violations of Title VII. Leadership needs to take a stand to represent and act accordingly. Stuff goes on in the Department because Leadership allows it. Someone other than Fairfax County officials (preferably Federal official) needs to investigate and enforce the Law. Maybe even tighten the wallet on some funding to get them to realize and fix the problem. Maybe then ALL people of every race, religion, sex, and orientation can pursue their calling without being molested by bullies or leadership that can’t get their “head out of their *ss”.

    • Shesplains says:

      Meanwhile you represent your union brothers that are disiplined for sexual harassment

  • Ruth Anne Phillips says:

    I worked at a paid department in Virginia not far from Fairfax for 2 1/2 years. Based on my experiences there, nothing in this story surprises me; nor does the increased number of suicides for firefighter/ems personnel. At my department a BC put a photo on his FB page disparaging African American women in the community. He is now the Deputy Chief. A Captain was charged with Domestic Violence and he was allowed to continue working on furlough while still getting paid. Another gem was caught stealing Fentynol – estimated 3 million dollars missing – he was able to leave quietly. In March, a Captain shot himself in the hand while handling a gun on duty, almost shooting another firefighter. He was allowed to remain on light duty while he recovered. I have FB posts from firefighters referring to the community as ‘the ghetto’ and I had a personal FB message from one of my brothers citing the Bible – “women shall remain silent” and another one explaining to me why women shouldnt be firefighters. This doesn’t include all of the nasty, hateful things I have heard said about myself, my sisters and my minority brothers.

    To say that you haven’t seen bullying or that this behavior is somehow deserved is shameful.
    There is no justification.

  • Cathie Cody says:

    Thank you for the kind words.

    1. Keep up the dialogue, as that’s the real path to progress.

    2. For the appropriate people — As for step one in Character 101, use your name and stand by your words. If you can’t do that, there’s something wrong with your words. Or, if it’s your opinion and it’s shakey, stand by it but be open to being convinced of the truth of something else and learn. You’re supposed to learn something new every day.

    3. Learn something new every day. (Yes, it’s a repeat, but it’s really important.) If something scares you, break it down into little steps and work on them one by one. If you’re not scared sometimes in your life, you’re living too conservatively.

    4. Life is kind of simple — be nice and don’t be a dick. 🙂

    Stay safe out there — I have such admiration for the new blood in the department and know I’m riding in spirit with you on every call.

    P.S. Mike Mohler – you were always a beacon of fairness and heart-felt passion for doing what was right.

  • Cathie Cody says:

    One more thing — so you’re supposed to learn something new every day. That’s learning something new of substance, something that makes you a better employee or person. Learning something new about some else’s business doesn’t count. Furthermore, if you’re maligning people, you’re wasting everyone’s time and creating poison. Most of all, you’re wasting your time. The career goes by quickly — don’t waste your time.

  • Cathie Cody says:

    Mike Mohler — rereading your comments: Yes, crap still happens. Yes, it seems that no one ever learns but….
    We remember when the first African American EMT on a BLS out of McLean was asked to go to the back door of a house for a call. Really. And this was not in 1920. Can you imagine that happening today?

    We remember the time that Clayton (Buck) Thompson came to ride the seat of Engine 1 as a new suppression lieutenant and the bucket guy was an African American rookie whose name escapes me . Anyway, we laughed when we realized we had such an ‘irregular’ crew (a white chick — eek! — driving with the rest of the crew African American), and we agreed that if any of the fine citizens of McLean gave us crap, we’d just take our time putting the fire out. (Just kidding folks — we would have kicked ass to show them what these ‘different’ firefighters could do.) (Btw, we were one of the most attractive engine crews working that day. hahah) Anyway, can you imagine that happening today?

    Mike, you remember the first women fire suppression officers — the world was supposed to end at this point. One such officer told me that she had a confrontation between her truck crew and another crew re who was going to take a door. Her crew had gotten there first but the officer from the second crew tried to order her crew back so his crew could take the door. She stood her ground and they forced the door. Can you imagine that happening today?

    What I am trying to say is stupid stuff has always happened and, perhaps in new guises or in new contexts, stupid stuff will always occur. We’re dealing with very human humans here. But we have to recognize the fact that things have changed, that progress has been made. When I started out, I was the only woman in my battalion on ANY shift, and there was only one other in each of the two neighboring battalions. Now, darn it, they’re just about everywhere! 🙂

    Even 40 years later, you’re still working to improve things, and we must continue to do so. Two steps forward to offset those step(s) back. Stand up, brush off the bs, put one foot in front of the other.

  • Cathie Cody says:

    To ‘Spartacus’ – the ‘approved female bunkrooms’ were never requested by the women employees, and the subject may be more complex and charged than you realized. The requirement was really paternalism on the part of the department leaders, and it greatly diminished the legitimacy of women firefighters in the department for years. It also greatly affected our ability to work callback. Moreover, some volunteer companies dragged their feet in creating these facilities in order to keep career women out. I always offered to sleep on the sofa. And as for sexual misbehavior on the job? No better place to avoid it if everyone is sleeping in the same room. But that’s nonsense long under the bridge, thank goodness. Hey, it’s almost 10 pm!

  • Erin C. says:

    First, thank you for the very respectful and profound commentary on this blog. It’s very different from the others I have come across. Your posts have been insightful. I was a friend of Nicole’s from her previous job in IT, before she became a firefighter. We never once witnessed a problem with her behavior, in the office or outside of work. In fact, Nicole was well liked and respected by all. There were no scandals, no “mistakes”. Many of us can’t understand how this could have happened. I’ve asked myself many times, if she had stayed working in IT, would she still be alive? It saddens me to say it, but I think so. I can’t imagine being in an environment where your career and reputation can so easily be defined by one “mistake”. It must have been a very hard road for her, one where she felt very alone and judged by all. I think back to when she was telling me how excited she was to become a firefighter, and I can’t help but wish I could go back in time to do everything in my power to talk her out of it. I wish it wasn’t this way and I hope there are real changes coming very soon under Chief Bowers that will provide women firefighters with the type of working environment they deserve. Thanks again for writing this post, this is the dialogue we need to be having and I appreciate the opportunity to share my thoughts. RIP Nicole.

  • Karen Staples says:

    I have been so troubled by this tragedy and I want to share my thoughts.

    I have previously served in both a local fire department and a local union. I was blessed to have had a positive experience. That is certainly not to say that I was liked and respected by all. It was hard at first with the shared facilities and some hard feelings and growing pain through that. For the most part though, I was treated with kindness and professionalism. If anyone spoke poorly of me, they did a good job of keeping it among themselves. One big difference between my experience and that of today’s fire service is social media. This is the same trouble my teenager experiences on a daily basis. There is so much added pressure from a constant connection to negative ideology. Everyone has their own opinion, and social media gathers them all together in mass to provide a constant barrage of insults and barbs. I can’t even imagine the pain inflicted on this young woman by having a jury of her peers pass judgement on her actions (whatever they were does not matter), then post their conclusions in a public forum.

    This, however is not what bothers me the most. There is a culture of fear surrounding mental health issues such as PTSD, depression, substance abuse, anxiety disorders and suicidal behavior. Many more I’m sure that go undiagnosed and untreated due to the fear of being labeled, judged, ridiculed or ostracized by the very brotherhood that purports to accept you unconditionally and trust you to have their back.

    I feel sad that this young woman felt she had nowhere to turn. I have stood on that precipice myself many times, staring down into the darkness below. Please know that it only takes one of you to make that difference. One person to stand up. One person to say NO. One person to offer hope and guidance. One person to encourage. One person to notice. One person at a time you can change a culture of fear and misunderstanding into a culture of respect and tolerance.

    My prayers are with the family of a beautiful human being gone too soon. They are also with all of you who grieve and have anger and want to do something to honor her memory. Take care of each other. Be that one person.

    The Retiree

  • Catherine says:

    Please accept my condolences for the death of Nicole Mittendorff. The firefighters gossiping about Nicole online committed the sin of detraction, which is revealing the sins of another without GOOD reason. While this is wrong, the majority of guilt is on Nicole, if she did indeed commit the wrongdoings mentioned on Fairfax. People need to take responsibility for their own actions. Married people who have affairs and destroy families should be chastised, but in private. Women working with male firefighters (lots of testosterone) in close proximity (sleeping same area?) for long periods of time is a BAD idea. I do not care if you disagree because this is a fact. This is yet another example of what happens to a society without God. If there is not much emphasis placed on His love, mercy and forgiveness, people tend to view their lives as meaningless. Without God, people do not see the role of suffering in their purification. Suffering is most always temporary.

  • Catherine says:

    By the way, I do not agree with women acting like men and men behaving like women. This is a manifestation of the sickness in society. God clearly designed men and women for different roles. This is coming from a woman who a type AAA personality and used to leg press about 450 lbs. What I have realized over the years, is that the manifestation of strength as a woman comes from living for others and not myself. It comes from understanding that sacrificing for my children and husband is necessary. I know this will tick some of you off, but any mother that is off living a stressful life as a firefighter is not putting her family first. I do not say this to be mean spirited but in the hope that some of you may reflect upon this and consider a change. We will not be judged on our looks, possessions, or accomplishments but on what we ‘sacrificed’ to place our families first.

    • Pam Cook says:

      Yes Catherine, this is an age of moral crisis. I agree. I hope you receive my message in the spirit of which it is given. As I interpret your post, it appears your view of selfhood is that women are consigned to selflessness—self-sacrificial altruism. 

           What is morality?  It is a code of values to guide one’s choices and actions — the choices which determine the purpose and the course of his life.  It is a code by means of which he judges what is right or wrong, good or evil.

           What is the morality of altruism?  The basic principle of altruism is that man has no right to live for his own sake, that service to others is the only justification of his existence, and that self-sacrifice is his highest moral duty, virtue and value.

      Are you open to an alternate opinion that the hallmark of a moral life is not self-sacrifice, but the principled pursuit of one’s own happiness. (emphasis on “principled”) The Bible guides us towards a more fulfilling life.

      Please consider this next statement: 
      You should never sacrifice three things: your family, your heart, or your dignity.
      Can we agree?

      This misogynist heritage cannot be remedied simply by condemning traditional constraints and advocating equal rights for women. Respectful intelligent discourse is critical to progress.

      Everyone is entitled to an informed opinion. (heavy on “informed”)

    • Tj says:

      I didn’t marry (it could still happen) and I didn’t have children. I gave to the citizens of the city where I worked and can honestly say I lived more for them than myself. You’re right. What you said ticked me off. The religion, sex lives and family status of others is nobody else’s business. I will stack my morals up against anybody’s. If my Dad, a 36 year Fire Captain believed in me and was proud that I followed him into the fire service, that’s enough for me. I did the right thing.

  • Erin C. says:

    Since we are considering posts on Fairfax Underground as truth, what about the post suggesting that what happened with Nicole was rape rather than consensual sex? Further to that, it suggests that a fellow firefighter might have allowed the rape to happen. I wouldn’t have brought this up, but since we are placing blame, let’s put it all out there.

  • Rachel Graham says:

    I am a college educated woman hired by Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Department in 1991. I left the department in 1993. In the thirty plus years since women were first admitted to Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Department as professional firefighters there have been multiple lawsuits and settlements for sexual harassment and many, many resignations (including mine, 23 years ago) of trained, qualified personnel due to sexual harassment and/or bullying. Apparently, FCFRD still doesn’t know how to adequately address these issues, particularly for women. It’s not just the lawsuits that have cost FCFRD millions of dollars, it’s the resignations of committed, qualified, firefighters, both men and women, who refuse to work in such an environment.

  • Pam Cook says:

    Building on TJ’s strong conviction asserting her rights to privacy:

    Our age has seen an almost complete blur of the previously separate spheres of the private and the secret.  They share some characteristics of one another and seem to be interchangeable.  If treated as a single identity,  the differences appear to become lost. 

    Result: assumption that anything that is kept from the public gaze is perceived as suspect. This is illogical.  These are two distinct concepts. 

    My privacy belongs to me. I may choose to selectively share. The rest is mine, and mine alone. 

    Nothing helps deepen our values as effectively as sharing them. To all the courageous firefighting women who chose to follow their heart and pursue this honorable profession ~ I thank you.

  • Cathie Cody says:

    My dear, dear Catherine:

    Congratulations on your leg press prowess. Lifting 450 pounds is indeed am accomplishment about which one should be proud. However, I don’t think you received the memo: You only get to judge people if you can press 500 pounds.

    Somewhere along the way of your walk with our Heavenly Father, you seem to have missed a basic tenet; ” judge not lest you be judged.” Even worse, somewhere along the way, you lost your heart.

    But since you are so ready to judge, announcing that Nicole carried the ‘majority of the guilt,’ I suppose we have to thank Nicole for her courage and very good manners — she took her own life, thus saving us the bother of stoning her to death in the town square. That would have been after we sprayed a big ole’ A on her breast with a can of Rustoleum. Or, since it’s a fire department, we could have staged a true ‘acto de fe’ and burned her at the stake.

    So, why are we burning Nicole? I don’t know what Nicole allegedly did, nor do I care. Was it sex? Did she DO IT? Is this high school? In a world in which hospitals are bombed, people are gassed to death, hostages are beheaded and children starve on the streets, we are discussing her (whatever the gossip is) and even before her urn is enurned, we’re in her personal business and proactively throwing dirt on her.

    Did she destroy a family? Since just her husband survives her, only he can say. As a believer, I am sure that he would have forgiven her (if there was something to forgive, which, I repeat, we will never know since our ‘evidence’ comes from delusional cyber bullies). But that was between them, not for us to surmise. And now with Nicole gone, he doesn’t get to decide.

    Since we can’t be sure what Nicole ‘did’ or didn’t do, let’s review what we DO know about this young woman.

    – We know that she was a dedicated employee who loved her job. That she cared for her coworkers and gave extraordinary care to her patients on calls. That she loved her husband and was the shining light of her family. In short, she was beautiful, intelligent and embarking on a career that she adored.

    – And yet, one day just a week or so ago, she drove herself to Shenandoah National Park, wrote a suicide note and talked down the trail that would lead to her death.

    – So let’s imagine what happened next. I want you to imagine every excruciating moment she suffered there alone. I want you to feel something. I want you to experience empathy.

    – Maybe she drove there so she could think. Her shock of finding out about the internet posts had not subsided, and her heart broke as she imagined how far the betrayal would travel from one end of the internet to the other. Only her name appeared in the postings — her tormenters were nameless, faceless phantoms that crowded her dreams at night.

    – Perhaps she just couldn’t shake feelings of abandonment and hopelessness so overwhelming that she could scarcely breathe. And the sense of betrayal was too onerous that her strong young body to bear. All of these feelings circled her and began to close in until she saw no way out.

    – She did not have the strength to turn around, walk back down the path and return to her life.
    It was then, despite knowing God’s mercy, she did whatever she did to kill herself. This life saver chose to not rescue herself, and she did it all alone in the woods.

    So, darlin’, here’s the one sad truth that I can offer you: Nicole took her own life by her own hand because of judgment by people like you. Your words above may be more cultured than those of the nameless cyberbullies. While theirs were self-serving and cruel, yours come wrapped in a warped cellophane of cold-blooded heartlessness. Nevertheless, your intent is the same. Nicole was perhaps screwed by a fellow firefighter, or she screwed him — I honestly don’t care. But ever since, she was figuratively screwed by cowardly cyberbullies and now by you, Saint Catherine.

    As for the rest of your sorry-ass, ridiculous post (sorry, I’m fresh out of patience at this point),

    1. yes, women can and do work and have children and would die for them. With special support, firefighter parents spend more time with their children than 9 to 5’ers who get home late every evening. Ask some women about how they do it. And firefighter dads are hands-on parents that do an incredible job. It’s a teamwork thing.

    2. Yes, working in a fire department, with all the testosterone and good-looking guys requires maturity. But it can be done. My husband and I, both retired firefighters, have the longest marriage in the department — more than 30 years — so many of us kept our knickers on. And, no, the two genders do not sleep in the same quarters, although a mixed dorm is the best way to avoid fraternization since everyone is all together.

    And, on your favorite subject of ‘hanky panky’; it can occurr anywhere people work together; sex in the copy room, trysts in late-night offices, nights of wild passion at conventions, etc etc etc Spare me. And imprisoning women at home doesn’t work either. Consider the possibilities with the cable guy — today’s equivalent to the milk man. Even purdah didn’t work in the Ottoman Empire, that’s why they castrated the harem guards — who were then called eunuchs.

    And don’t waste my time with your ramblings about ‘men’ and ‘women’ blah blah blah. There are jobs to do and calls to run and people to help. As for gender, it’s not WHAT you do, it’s HOW you do it. This has been going on for more than 30 years now, sowelcome to the 21st Century.

    Get a life. Get a grip. But, most of all, Saint Catherine, look around in your chest for your heart and use it. It’s located right under that long skinny bone that runs down your chest between your breasts. It is faith, hope AND charity. It is understanding, forgiveness and empathy. It is the highest calling of being human.

    By the way, my last name is Cody. What’s yours?

    • Jen says:

      Cody,
      From a sister … BRAVO! Nothing else …. just standing ovation ….BRAVO!

    • Pam Cook says:

      We do need to be careful with our words for while they may someday be forgiven, they will never be forgotten. Words,—yes, even while they are “just words”—have power. Power to demean and cut and hurt. And the pain stays. For years. It is amazing how the hurt can come back and wash over us like waves. It can recede and fade— but it stays. Kinda like a faded, ugly, emotional tattoo.

      Ms. Cody, I see an authentic leader emerging and rising. I see a consummate team player possessing the drive to influence positive outcomes with maximum impact.  I see abilities to understand concepts of survival, renewal and reinvention, all of which will enhance your message. My respect for you exponentially grows with each post you write. This old proverb comes to mind as I read your words:
            
      She who knows not and knows not she knows not: she is a fool – shun her.
      She who knows not and knows she knows not: she is simple – teach her. 
      She who knows and knows not she knows: she is asleep – wake her. 
      She who knows and knows she knows: she is wise – follow her.

    • Christine Penska Cournoyer says:

      I love you Cathy Cody!

  • Mike says:

    Let’s be clear “first responders.” If the pukes who posted this stuff on FFX Underground did this to my sister or daughters, I would most certainly beat you to death with a baseball bat. Any questions? Well?

  • Cathie Cody says:

    Eric, There’s no edit prompt that I can find. My latest post should end with “My last name is…. What’s yours?” Everything after that should be deleted. It was parts of earlier drafts, so it doesn’t make sense as it stands. Thanks!

  • Julia says:

    I joined a, I guess you would call it a progressive department, in 1987 following in my dad’s footsteps. We already had several Women Life Members at that point, meaning they had served at least 10 years. I am sure they had also cleared the way for us! We had several Federal and Local LEOs as Members, which also helped. So, as Volunteers, we did not have many issues. We covered the station the majority of the time with the Paid staff covering M-F during the day, except holidays. We also had a good relationship with them.

    We had 2 bunkrooms, the ‘Mens’, being very large, and the ‘Womens’, having 4 bunks. For the most part, the Women’s bunk went unused because the sirens weren’t as loud in there. But if there was a loud snorer on that shift, all 4 bunks would be full or the snorer would be sent there. The bunk rooms were NOT a place for hanky panky. They were for sleeping, particularly since everyone had jobs to get up and go to the next day.

    Being in the area I was, we had a very diverse cultural, and this showed in our membership. This was a bonus! The Jewish members always covered Christmas, the Christian members always covered Hanukkah, both covered Kawanza, and so on.

    However, 10 years later, we moved 35 miles away, and with many years under my belt, and I joined a smaller Dept. I was welcomed with open arms as a full member and became one of only a couple of women that were there. They said they needed someone for the ambulance (FD speak for “Stay in the kitchen”) which was fine by me because EMS was my passion. I quickly heard words describing other races I had never heard before, was asked to do the dishes if I walked in the firehouse for any reason even though Jr and Probie members were sitting there, when I said ‘No, Clean your own mess up. ‘ it resulted in comments like “Ohhhhh, Someone’s on thier period”. I lived literally across the street from the firehouse so I responded from home. In fact, people only slept there out of boredom. I was married and WANTED to be home. However, there were continuous, almost nightly requests for me to come spend the night at the FH, with such and such, normally multiple people and there was no denying what they meant by it. Pictures posted up all over the FH of nude or almost nude women, different races with comments, etc.

    I spoke to the Chief, and his response was basically ‘Your in a man’s job, what do you expect’ so I quit. The funny thing was, I worked at the Nat’l Fire Academy.

    I was NOT in a MAN’S job. I was in MY job. A job perfectly suited to a WOMAN. I was nurturing my community. I had chose not to go the Fire path and stay in EMS, even though we had many women at my prior station who had and were AWESOME! But I loved EMS! My dad had always stayed in EMS for the same reason. He put in 40 Active years. I enjoyed telling someone in thier worst moment it was OK. Holding thier hand. Talking to them. Looking them in the eye.

    After reading the comments on FU, I am saddened. IF she had an affair, it was between her and her husband and not for her to be judged by these hypocrits who are judging her then talking about all these other women and races, and Volunteer vs Paid, etc. I am saddened because I know the public’s perception is tarnished by these bad apples and that could effect fund raising for the entire Metro Area. I am saddened because Fairfax has had suits in the past and it seems, from these posts, that the problem isn’t fixed. And I am mostly saddened that Nicole had found herself in such a dark place that she didn’t feel she could reach out to EAP, another person, a Drink, someone, to pull her back.

  • Karrie Boswell says:

    Thank you Cathy Cody you continue to lead and inspire. My sister is gone and I want her back. My heart breaks for her family, and those who knew her best. I will continue to honor Nicole’s memory, and my brother and sister firefighters in whatever way I can. PS any reasonable person should realize that the only words that matter are the ones that can be attributed to a recognizable individual; words that come from the cowardly caves of anonymity lack merit and suggest weakness, fear and self-loathing. Attention all anonymous posters, grow up, face your fears, and grow some intestinal fortitude. I love to engage in online discussions but find it a total waste of time to deal with clowns behind a curtain, or nerds in a basement. You can neither hurt, help, or inspire me because your words are not valid. PSS the childish nomenclature of anonymous is not real. You can be found. To anyone reading this who is suffering please reach out to someone. Many people have been where you are, and what seems insurmountable and all-consuming can be relieved with help and time. The strongest people in the world are the ones who can ask for help when they need it.

  • Frank Booth says:

    (I have chosen to edit some language from this comment by Frank Booth. Eric Lamar)

    You’re just mad because once again, the introduction of women into a nessecarily masculine environment is an utter disaster. Be it the police, fire, or military, the usual result of a female entering a tightly knit, masculine group is that she XXXXX and XXXXX many if not all of them, leading to inevitable chaos and infighting amongst the rank and file. The ones that XXXX her call her a XXXX, the ones who want to XXXX her try to White Knight it and turn on the guys who have XXXXXX her, and the end result is loss of unit cohesion, which in the military is often fatal. No matter how much you despicable Social Justice Warriors try, you can’t change human nature or natural gender roles. You keep trying by promulgating freaks like all these transvestites. If you think Donald Trump is bad, wait till you see what comes after him.

  • John Thompson says:

    I’m not a member of the Firefighting community and I have never read this Blog before. I have tremendous respect for first responders and their ability and willingness to place themselves in harm’s way to protect, provide aid and serve the public. I know what it is like to hear my 2 year old grandson say the word “Firefighter” and say it with respect and say it often. I guess Fire and Police often have a special intrigue for kids of all ages. I’m a recent widower and I can tell you what a comfort you feel when your hear the sirens approaching your home and the relief you feel when the first FD member comes through the door. A small diverse team … young and old, male and female, white and black and Hispanic. My wife is in the best of care and my hope grows with every second watching the team work together, everyone coordinated and one step ahead of each other. The second time they tried very hard but it was too late.

    I’m really troubled by what I have heard and read about the loss of your sister firefighter and certainly what appears to be disgusting behavior from some male members among your ranks. As much as I wish it is not the case, does not appear or sound likely that the inappropriate comments were made from outside your profession … just way to much inside information and fire department jargon.

    I’m aware from some past local tragedies that Fairfax Underground can be a very disgusting forum of posters hiding behind anonymity. I suspect that in this situation that there are members among the ranks that are no doubt aware of the identity of some of the presumed FCFD posters. There is an old-boy network between a handful of neighboring stations … where some non-participants are aware of who the perpetrators are. Some of those men need to reclaim their good record and clear their conscious by outing those responsible so that your department can be purged of these bad seeds.

    Those men responsible for those harassing and bullying messages … I don’t want them coming through my door … I don’t want them putting their hands on my loved ones. We in the public have a high standard of respect for the men and women that serve as Firefighters, Paramedics and EMT’s. Your Department, Your Chief, Your Union, Your Members … they need to work together to identify those responsible and remove them from your ranks. They just don’t belong and they tarnish your image and what you stand for. They are hiding among you!

    Thank you all for your service!

  • Mike says:

    I am guessing that at least one of the insidious Internet creeps was a woman.

  • Pam Cook says:

    I do realize I’ve become an interloper here. For that, I’m embarrassed. I shall share one final experience that I’ve struggled to describe, struggled to internalize and struggled to question personal implicit biases.

    My family has called 911 four times in the past year on my behalf. Age and declining health has contributed to two falls resulting in multiple spinal compression fractures and four fractured ribs. Because these incidents occurred within a relatively short time-frame, many now familiar firefighter faces quickly eased my fear. 

    Around six months later, I woke up in a hospital after two days of being admitted. I was in complete kidney failure with rhabdomyolysis. My family had found me unconcious on the floor and called 911. Again my heroic firefighters came to my rescue. My family later described the professionalism and compassion proved over and over. It was a complete mystery to all involved as I was unconcious. I had fallen, hiting my kidney (hematoma) on a table corner also breaking my thumb. 

    Please bear with me folks. I’m going somewhere with all of this 🙂

    Five days after I’m finally well enough to come home, I collapse. 911 again. (The adjustments to my heart medication combined with stronger blood pressure meds had caused some kind of imbalance)  When I came to and saw familiar faces, I cried, I felt so safe. They helped me to the ambulance, holding my hands the entire time, giving me encouragement the whole way. Once in the ambulance, a female EMT began to initiate an IV. One of the firefighters jumped from the group still at my side and immediately took over. He knew my tiny veins are so scarred, he’d done it several times before.

    Once we were sent on our way, the EMT began a discussion with the driver. She asked him “Have you ever seen that before?” “No, I’ve never seen one of them jump in like that” She said “I wanted to say ‘I got it, dude’. I tried to explain that it wasn’t a slight to her at all, that they had been through a lot with me and it was only their desire to alleviate my suffering – not a lack of confidence in her abilities.

    The truth is that I felt blessed when the firefighters came forward. Gender discrimination did not apply. If there is question as to my bias, it is not male vs female competency but my ultimate faith and trust in the firefighter.

  • Cathie Cody says:

    Pam, I hope you’re feeling better.

  • Mike M says:

    Frank Booth, I can empathize with your sense that many challenges are completely ignored in the name of left wing political correctness. I also agree that Trump is not as bad as what will come next and it’s all fueled by common sense backlash against political correctness and a lot of dysfunctional status quo. In fact, I used to say, if we don’t respect the basic concerns of the Tea Party, you will really hate what comes next. Well Trump is next, and after him, could be trouble. However, the behavior of those you describe who target their colleagues for sexual feats and then “shame” them is at best adolescent and at worst sexually predatory. Most grown men do truly want to XXXX all their female colleagues. It takes a really special loser to shift into the shaming mode. Someone like this would probably commit rape if they felt they could get away with it. They have no place in public service and probably need treatment or some rounding out life experience (as in grow the XXXX up), or incarceration. People who recognize that are not “White Knighting” anything. They are just being stand-up adults. People who see what we see need to keep our heads and not be the rascals the left claims us to be.

  • honey rodgers says:

    for some reason i’ve been following this case and it lead me to this page

    i appreciate listening to all your remarks and important discussions about bullying and respecting women in the work place

    i was deeply disturbed when i heard and read the cyber bullying posts.

    I followed the story from her being missing which is never good or ends well, then being found dead, and that was a mystery, and then the news she had been bullied, and that she committed suicide

    my father was a firefighter, my boyfriend and brother were (retired now) and reading the slut-shaming posts were unbelievably cruel especially coming from her colleagues calling her out by name is unbelievable, but, that’s the internet.. in a job where your lives depend on those you work with to be betrayed like this is infuriating, it drove some one to kill themselves, what a horrible thing

    as many of you have said, you can hide and say anything you want, not everyone has standards and values (which is what they were accusing her of)
    i know for some they will never think women should do what was considered a man’s job, it’s just like racism, they are afraid they will loose something, they can’t adjust to sharing and accommodating for others in their lives and it’s not just about sexuality, it’s everything in their lives and it’s usually not hard to know who these people are and they are the ones loosing out
    a wonderful person is now gone, and that’s a terrible thing for her and everyone who loved her

  • Karen says:

    I am new to this story. It greatly disturbs me and breaks my heart. I wish to express my condolences, and pay my respects to Nicole; to express my thanks for her service and that I agonize over her obvious pain. I can not speak to every facet of this tragedy, but perhaps I can offer my voice. I was a volunteer at Station 2, Vienna, VA for nearly 5 years, beginning in 1976-7. Those were turbulent times and relatively uncharted territory for females; especially in Suppression. Frankly, a tragedy like this triggers some unsettling and painful memories. I sincerely pray that in whatever way she was wronged, that those responsible will be held accountable. For my part, I would like to commend the respectful behavior and professional actions of some of my fellow volunteers, as well as many of the career personnel, with whom I feel privileged to have known and served with, during my time as a volunteer. I wish to remind them that they made a difference, that they were part of a legacy, and that their support was greatly appreciated.

  • Oscar Polk says:

    What a terrible thing to have happen. My condolences to her parents. It’s always disheartening when we as a society can’t treat each other with the dignity and respect that we ourselves would like to have. Very sad.

  • Don says:

    Such a sad story.

  • don says:

    I agree with “It’s all about power, stupid”. It’s a place where normally powerful people can experience the pleasure in powerlessness.

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