I was seriously ready to wash my hands of this whole fight after a venomous attack on the MPA and Mike Williams on Facebook after the MPA negotiations. Mike and the MPA have done everything humanly possible for the retirees and still are and yet they are attacked by some of those same people they seek to help. But, that is another post. Regardless, this event led me to question why do I still do this? Why do I invest so much heart and time? Time I could be spending on my family I give to complete strangers and they are ungrateful? The answer again came in the tragic passing of Lt. Eddins.
Lt. Eddins passed away fighting a fire in Memphis and I believe a post made by fire Retiree, Cody Childress, sums it up best:
"Do you remember about two years ago Mayor Wharton and the city council decided to require retired city employees to start paying 100% of their Health Insurance? I was one of those retirees. My premium was going from 400.00 a month to about 1600.00 a month. I was very fortunate that my wife was able to obtain insurance at her employment. But now that means she will have to work another 6 years before she can retire. I am not complaining about our situation, I am saying that we are blessed that we are able to cope and survive.
Lt. Eddins was a 30 year veteran with the MFD. He was looking forward to retirement just like I was. But him and his wife were looking at the insurance situation and knew it would be very hard to retire and have the insurance premiums double and triple.
So he was doing what hundreds of other city employees are doing, they are toughing it out until they are 65. That is all well and good for most positions but for a firefighter's job, not so much. We are already broke down by this job by the age of 50. When you are pushing the envelope at 60 or 65 the odds are against you. Lt. Eddins body had had all of the punishment it could take. He gave his all every day and Saturday night he made the ultimate sacrifice.
Our police and firefighters are having to work until they are 65 or older. Their jobs are physical and stressful 24 hours a day. We worked for benefits, the pay was substandard. So when The City of Memphis decided it was a smart financial decision to cut our benefits at a crucial stage of our lives it was really nothing more than a death sentence by the stroke of a pen.
Rest in Peace my Brother"
I thought the reality best be told by the people living it. How many more do we have to lose before the city realizes that it has handed over death sentences to some? When will the people care enough about their fellow humans and the people that stand between them and death? What about those they leave behind?
"Loving you for a lifetime has been with joy and ease. Standing by your side knowing you were easy to please. Everything I did for you, I did it with love. Hoping that you were pleased as you now look from above. Knowing God does everything for a reason, he saw that you were tired and decided to change your season. Rest for now Rodney, whom I loved so dear. I’ll keep working in the Vineyard until my time is near. I love you."
As I type his loving wife’s last tribute to her husband, tears are streaming and anger fills me. She had to lose him for the city to care for her? He had to sacrifice himself for them to care? He gladly did it and from the stories his brothers tell, he did it with pride and honor. He was loved by everyone he met. The city forced him to choose between his health and his family. Knowing what I know of the man now, the choice was simple. He loved what he did, but he could have retired when his body needed to if only the selfishness of a city administration wouldn’t have forced a choice. He isn’t the only one making this choice.
As I sat at his funeral, I saw Mayor Strickland. His presence was necessary and I feel he should see the result of the decision he refuses to make. He refuses to enforce the resolution the council passed last year to restore benefits. He has sole authority. He started the 4.6% cut that the retirees never got back. He needs to see the consequences of his choice. These are people not numbers.
I did not see his name on the order of service and I thought to myself, “At least he has more class than the last mayor not to speak at a heroes funeral.” I was wrong.
I am still trying to work out his words versus his actions. I guess I will let you all be the judge of that. I ask that the Mayor Strickland, Puppet master Flinn, The Chamber, and the Memphis City Council look long and hard at these pictures taken at Bellevue and tell me again what the private sector does. Not one of you risks a flag covered coffin and making the choices these men and women take. They are NOT and never will be the Private Sector. Make no mistake it is painfully obvious that you hold the power of life and death in your hands. I beg of you, choose life. Stop the Exodus restore the benefits for the city’s sake and for these brave men and women who truly give their lives for this city.
Thank you Lt. Eddins for your service. May God Bless you and your family. At your funeral, I found my answer to why do I do this. Those brothers and sisters you left behind are the reason I am still in the trenches. Your story answered my question and gave me the abilty to look beyond the drama and see the people. I saw them file one by one to say goodbye to you. They are all just like you and all deserve better than what has been given. They are hurting and they need all of us.
To those in the field, thank you for continuing to choose the citizens of Memphis. We are grateful to you even if your Administration is not. We see you, I see you. We will not give up.