Size Up Article for September 25, 2013 Deadline…


From the Chaplain’s Study…

Today is probably November 23rd, maybe I missed it by a day or two – but this issue of Size Up was probably placed in your mailbox about that time. However, as I’m sure you have guessed this article was written months before, in September. In fact, last night and this morning I worked on the Jefferson County’s Annual September 11th Remembrance Ceremony. We remember and honor the 343 and lift up the tragic events on that day at the World Trade Center, the Pentagon and in the field near Shanksville in rural Somerset County, Pennsylvania.


To prepare for the ceremony I’ve read the heart-wrenching stories from some of the family members of the 343 who died and I paused to remember the 12 members of FDNY who died this year from illnesses related to work at the World Trade Center after the September 11 attacks. Those 12 were added to the list of the names first placed on the memorial in September 2011.


To prepare to write this article I have also reflected on the Arizona 19, the LODD announcements I see from Chief Billy Goldfeder (far too frequently) and I thought about the names of our own county firefighters and EMTs who will be remembered this year – as they have answered their last alarm.


To be honest --- I feel like the writer of the 22nd Psalm…

My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?

Why are you so far from helping me, from the words of my groaning?

O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer; and by night, but find no rest.

Am I alone in this? Certainly not! Many of you have shared with me the feelings of being forsaken and forgotten – by God and others. Many struggle with the after-effects of tragedies – sometimes the after-effects are physical, sometimes emotional and almost always spiritual.


The reality of the Fire and Emergency Medical Services is that TRAGEDIES are becoming such a common occurrence that to not have one is the exception.


Again, Psalm 22 puts it in perspective…

It is like being surrounded by dogs; a company of evildoers encircles me.

The “evildoers” may be individuals wishing us harm or the “evildoers” may be the tragedies we will inevitably face on the fire scene or at the EMS call. The point is that we feel surrounded.


But again, I turn to the 22nd Psalm…

In you, O LORD, our ancestors trusted; they trusted, and you delivered them. To you they cried, and were saved; in you they trusted, and were not put to shame. For you, O LORD, are not far away! You are my help, please come quickly to my aid!


That, undoubtedly, is some of the best news that I as a Chaplain and Pastor can ever share with someone in the midst of a tragedy. To know that they are not alone, for them to know that others care is such a blessing and comfort.


Or, in the words of Jesus as he is preparing to leave his followers, “And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” Those words are found at the end of Matthew’s gospel and have been words of comfort and hope for centuries.


My prayer is that these same words will be words of comfort and hope for us as we go into the world to face our next tragedy.

Be safe and God bless!

Chaplain Leon VanWie

(Chaplain Leon VanWie serves on the Board of Directors of the New York State Association of Fire Chaplains. He has been active in the fire service since 1976 and was an EMT for over 15 years. Currently he is the Chaplain and President of the Town of Watertown Volunteer Fire Department in Jefferson County. Chaplain VanWie can be contacted at 305 Flower Avenue West, Watertown, NY 13601 or through e-mail at