Keeping the 9-1-1 in 9/11
by Calendar Hacksaw
Every once in a great while, even a lowly rural columnist has to get serious for a few minutes, and I guess this is one of 'em. So, bear with ol' Calendar, and maybe I'll buy a round when it's over. Not likely, but it's the thought that counts.
I take great risk this month, knowing that as you read this you will be much closer to September 11th than I am right now. But that is not where the real danger exists. The bigger gamble lies with subscribers who receive The Fence Post by mail, as I do, usually two weeks or more after each edition hits the streets. For those readers, September 11th will have come and gone, for better or worse, well before these words ever hit their mailboxes, rendering me either a fool or a prophet. But since I'm already regarded as a fool by most, I figure I might as well take my chances on the prophet thing. So, if this column doesn't hold up very well, please take into consideration when it was written, as well as the fool who wrote it.
A fact unknown to most is that prior to last September 11th, the 9/11 date was "reserved" as a day to honor the work of 9-1-1 operators and others who toil in emergency services. A delegation from the National Emergency Number Association (NENA), was in Washington, D.C. that morning to meet with key legislators and host a press conference announcing the results of the first "9-1-1 Report Card to the Nation." But at soon as American Flight #77 plowed into the Pentagon, the District of Columbia's entire focus shifted into survival mode. The 9-1-1 crowd was shepherded to a "safe" location, although on that fateful morning there were no guarantees that anyplace could be considered safe.
You may not know this, but 9-1-1 service is not ubiquitous. In fact, in some states there are dozens of counties where no 9-1-1 service exists at all. It is the mission of NENA, and other organizations, to see that one day every American will have that simple three-digit number to dial when circumstances require. And it is also their cause to expedite the implementation of new technology that will enable 9-1-1 operators to know the precise locations of cell phone callers. Perhaps one day, wireless 9-1-1 will be ubiquitous in this region as well, although I secretly fear this will overburden local rescuers due to our inordinate number and frequency of back-country mishaps and "brain farts" committed by a sizeable number of us, myself included.
I think there is a high probability of terrorism occurring on September 11, 2002. Some of these acts could be perpetrated by the same Al Quida forces responsible for last year's atrocities. September 11th is a very special date in history for them now, just as it is for us. But if the past serves as any indication, Bin Laden prefers the element of surprise. To attack again on 9/11 would just be too predictable and risky, knowing that our forces and those of our allies will be on full alert.
Of far greater threat are the day-to-day "terrorists" in our midst; the murderers, rapists, robbers and meth lab chemists who conspire to make our streets unsafe, cause us to fear for the safety of our children, stimulate the sale of firearms, and keep us imprisoned behind locked gates, dead bolts and alarm systems, telephone in one hand, Smith & Wesson in the other.
So, I predict that on 9/11 a lot of culprits will be trying to get our attention, one way or another. There will be more than the usual number of juvenile hoaxsters, too; those who find all of this amusing in some way. Once jailed, they will bleat and plead for mercy, "Hey, I was only kidding! It was only a blasting cap. It was only a pellet pistol. It was only talcum powder. Can't anyone take a joke?"
No, we can't. Just shut up and enjoy your stay.
There's no doubt in my mind that 9/11 will bring out the best in most folks, and the absolute worst in the small minority that make up the rest. Ask any street cop or dispatcher what it's like to work during a full moon, and then multiply that by a factor of a thousand. It's amazing how many mentally unbalanced individuals who walk our streets suddenly think the liquor store clerk is invading their brains with laser vision, making it necessary to encase their heads in aluminum foil for protection. Or, others who believe hundreds of little men are running around beneath the sofa in their living rooms. Generally, these people pose no threat and present little more than some temporary diversion and mild amusement. But in times of crisis their delusions and seemingly desperate pleas for help can distract our emergency workers from their most important responsibility: protecting the rest of us. A roomful of 9-1-1 operators can only answer a certain number of emergency calls simultaneously, a deputy can only handle one event at a time, and each reported crime requires an indeterminate time to process. All other callers, sadly, must wait their turns in the seemingly ever-growing queue. It's no surprise that in spite of demand, rising salaries, improved working conditions and modern technology, fewer and fewer qualified people aspire to become public safety professionals.
After 9/11, major crimes sharply decreased in many urban areas, leading ol' Calendar to believe that even those scumbags who hold little or no regard for the sanctity of human life had been shocked silly by what they'd witnessed, and decided to just give it a much-needed rest for a while. But, now, crime seems to be once again on the rise, if one is to believe the news media. This has become the summer of child abductions and "Amber Alerts," replacing last year's fascination with shark attacks. And, although we salute the recent heroics of those who took care of business up by Canebreak, we also look at some of these events and ask, "Where were the parents?"
We read stories about 13-year-old girls climbing out of bedroom windows to go joyriding with 19-year-old guys at all hours of the night. And, for what purpose? What 19-year-old cowboy would want to be caught parked atop Lion's Trail with a child at 3:00 a.m.? These girls do not become "mature for their age" without the knowledge, implied consent and obvious indifference of their guardians. It's time to own up to that fact.
On September 11th, I ask that you not just assume that your kids aren't into any trouble or danger; be dead sure of it. Acknowledge the fact that Walker Basin won't be as safe tomorrow as it is today, and certainly isn't any safer than it was yesterday. Watch out for all the young ones, not just your own, even though they're 16 or 17 years old and hate to be referred to as the "children" they are. Our juvenile justice system is clogged with them. Make them despise you, if necessary, for the year or two it takes to get them to maturity. I want them to be alive tomorrow, because frankly I need new readers, and a lot of you are aging a lot faster than I'd planned. We have a responsibility to make the Basin safe; it's not an act of nature.
Calendar loiters nightly at http://www.calendarhacksaw.com, and he suggests that over beer you and your cohorts name the six most likely terrorist targets in Kern County. Earn extra points for not including the Padre Hotel, and e-mail your list to firstname.lastname@example.org.