He opened the door, pushing in without a knock.
“Jack,” he called into the dark. “Jack!”
No answer. But he knew his way around his son’s house, and he walked straight toward the bedroom. From the threshold, he could see the worst: his son’s body, slumped across the floor. Blood on his head. Handgun on the ground. Like his son, Jack Slivinski Sr. was a fireman. He had attended many tragic scenes, seen many dead. And he knew: His son Jack was now one of them. But that didn’t stop him from rolling the body over, placing his mouth over his son’s. “The breath of life,” they call it, a procedure both men had learned on the job. He called an ambulance, then his wife. And this is how mysteries start: In the middle of the night, with dead bodies on bedroom carpets.
When we think of unexplained deaths, we think of murder. Our protagonist is the cynical homicide cop who tallies the facts and catches the killer. Suicides, it turns out, involve a similar kind of mystery. Only in those cases, it’s the relatives—say, parents like Jack Slivinski’s father, and his mother, Gerry—who act as the sleuths. They are the ones left behind to solve the riddle: Why did my son take his own life? In the case of Jack Slivinski Jr., his parents found no shortage of reasons. There was a fatal fire, early in his career, in which his lieutenant died trying to find him in the surging flames. The guilt Jack felt never eased. Jack and his wife of three years, Carla, were separated. They were trying to reconcile. But nothing was guaranteed.
And then there was the calendar. LINK
Obviously I can’t comment on this story in detail, as I know everyone involved. I also have experienced some of the very discrimination this bold Philadelphia Magazine article talks about. In fact, the Fire Department recently SETTLED a discrimination lawsuit involving five white fire officers over a promotional exam. I took the same exam. Very few firefighters in the PFD have any faith or confidence in their upper leadership these days. This is a well-researched and documented report. What is funny is that Harold Hairston – our previous Fire Commissioner – was not very popular during his tenure as Commissioner. However Philadelphia’s first black Fire Commissioner was widely seen as fair in that he ran a tight ship and administered discipline equally to ALL members. EVERYONE knew that if you had to see the man, black or white, you were going to be in trouble. Few of us ever thought we would ever want him back. Oh how times change.
All firefighters want is fair and competent leadership. Our job is too serious to be mired in petty issues such as racism. When we respond to emergencies we are going to save a HUMAN life, period. The same goes for promotions, assignments and discipline. We want the best person for the job. Unfortunately, it still seems like the racial spoils system rules the day. I urge you to read the article in its entirety and draw your own conclusions.