The Next Ground Zero: "We Are Ready"

Tommy Neiman

Tommy Neiman

In 2001 Islamic radicals struck America in New York City and Washington D.C. 3,000 people died.

It’s difficult to understand why the terrorists flew airplanes filled with people into buildings. The meaning of the word “radical is “root.”  Those Islamic men had returned to their spiritual roots in both their minds and their bodies. They believed in their cause, their war,  and they were willing to die for it.

The foundation of the Twin Towers in New York City became known as “Ground Zero.”  This term was coined in 1946.  The dictionary states the meaning as, “the point on the earth’s surface directly above, below, or at which an explosion (especially a nuclear explosion) occurs.”

Americans were devastated.  Islam claimed a victory.

Though it has been 15 years since 9/11, Americans continue to call such acts “terrorism,” whereas Islamic radicals call them “jihad,” or acts of war.  This war is ongoing—even on American soil.

When a nation or a people go to war, all resources are put into play.  And plans that were successful before will be utilized again.

Is America ready?  Is your community prepared?

Tommy Neiman, Florida State Fire Fighter of the Year (2003) and St. Lucie County Fire Fighter of the Year (1993), has seen the unimaginable horror of Ground Zero shortly after 9/11.  As a chaplain, Neiman was part of a memorial service which distributed urns filled with concrete dust from the center shaft of both the North and South Twin Towers to families yet in shock—their loved ones suddenly gone.

Tommy Neiman has also witnessed the recent preparations of fire fighters.  No longer do these public servants just put out house fires—they are trained and continue to be trained in the latest rescue skills for a variety of attacks and even for another Ground Zero.

Fire fighters carry dosimeters (devices that measure exposure to ionizing radiation) and other radiological monitoring equipment to measure nuclear radiation.  Neiman states, “Each year fire fighters and emergency rescue receive a refresher course on the use of this special type of equipment, keeping them up-to-date.  Fire fighters and emergency rescue have also been prepared for a situation with mass casualties and evacuation procedures.

Communication has been bettered.  The government has upgraded fire fighter/emergency rescue radios with more frequencies; a specific frequency can now be used just for a single catastrophic event.

Hazardous material (HAZMAT) crews have been well trained. Smoke from chemical fires can be a major problem.  Hazardous chemicals and particles in the smoke can cause death. Chemical suits are ready and able to be worn.

Fire fighters are trained for special rescue situations—in confined spaces, for example, in underground piping. 

At the stations, there are now heavier bay doors in place and a tighter watch on vehicles at a rescue scene.  A fire truck or ambulance, if stolen, could be packed with explosives and normally would receive good access to many facilities.

In St. Lucie County, a newly formed SWAT team of paramedics has been cross-trained to work with law enforcement on special law enforcement missions.

Tommy Neiman adds, “There is an overall awareness, an acceptance of this new reality and heightened preparedness among fire fighters and emergency rescue to save lives and protect property.”

Neiman believes that the level of stress is now higher among fire fighters and emergency rescue.  Right after the Boston Marathon bombing occurred, he thought, ‘Will this happen here on my shift?’  He admits that it very well could, and continued “We will respond to it. We are 100% ready and have stayed on the cutting edge of what’s out there globally, for handling a terrorism incident.”

When asked, “How can the public be ready?” Neiman answers, “One citizen alone can make a difference.  If you see something, report it.  We must remain proactive and observant.  That one person who alerts authorities could possibly stop a terrorist attack from happening or lessen the blow.”

As a fire fighter chaplain, Tommy Neiman remembers that after 9/11 churches were full.  Americans were scared.  They had come to realize that death is real, and the next day is not promised.  He affirms, “It is important to be ready spiritually.”

Tommy Neiman is the author of Sirens of the Cross, and for 18 years has been the baseball chaplain for both the New York Mets (spring training) and the St. Lucie Mets.  A native of Fort Pierce, he travels the country speaking about his life as a fire fighter—offering hope and encouragement where needed.  Tommy Neiman currently serves in the Malabar and Okeechobee Fire/Emergency Rescue Departments and spent 30 years with the St. Lucie County Fire Department as a Lieutenant. Contact Tommy Neiman at or (772) 216-7426.

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The Risks of Sex

This is no shocker: Today’s youth are having sex; 1 in 4 teens gets a sexually transmitted disease (STD) each year.

Willow Sanders

Willow Sanders

This is no shocker either: The Center for Disease Control (CDC) states that “half of all sexually active young people in the United States will get a sexually transmitted disease (STD) by age 25—and most won’t know it!” (CDC)

There are 20 million STDs occurring each year in the United States. Half are among the youth. (CDC) More than 20 sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) have been identified. They are passed from person-to-person during vaginal, anal or oral sex. These diseases cause illness and if left untreated, even death.

Dr. Jonathan Mermin, Director of the CDC’s National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD and Tuberculosis Prevention calls this situation an epidemic. So many people are carriers of an STD, but because they have no symptoms, they simply pass the disease to whomever they have sex with. “You can’t tell if someone has an STD by looking at them.”

Almost all STDs spread through vaginal sex can be spread through oral and anal sex as well. (CDC)

Some of the STDs have no cure--HPV, AIDS/HIV, Genital Herpes. It is important to understand that HPV can be passed from skin cell to skin cell, unlike other STDs.

How can STDs be prevented?

Over and over again, the Center for Disease Control states that the only way to avoid STDs is abstinence—don’t have sex. Can the youth truthfully abstain? “Yes, young people can control themselves.” states Willow Sanders, Director of Student Services at Protect the Heart, a branch of Care Net of the Treasure Coast.

Many of the youth already do practice self-control. It is a matter of discipline and commitment. The mindset of abstinence until marriage is growing in the United States. The majority of these young people have been influenced by their parents—who have voiced the necessity of waiting. What a parent says, matters, and demonstrates care for his or her child, whether the teen responds positively or not. Likewise, parents must remember that their own actions speak as loudly as their words.

When should parents begin the “abstinence is worth it” conversation with their youth?

Willow Sanders relates that peer pressure to act out sexually begins in the middle school years. Experimenting starts then, and the sexual world is open to their eyes through sexting and snapchat videos. Access to the internet and curiosity expose tweens and teens to porn and sodomy at a new level mankind has never seen before. By high school, students are often behaving irresponsibly, even becoming careless. “Guard rails,” Sanders says, “are still up though—home, parents, grandparents, etc.. Upon entering college and adulthood, the guard rails come down. Without a true commitment, the pressure of a sexually-charged culture will win."

The brain of a youth is not fully developed and mature until around age 25. Thinking about sex can become confusing.

Willow Sanders states that any youth who has had sex must be STD tested. “Many of the youth are carriers of STDs, but show no signs of disease; sometimes STDs mask themselves, lying dormant for years.”

Friends with benefits aren’t so beneficial after all. Neither is casual sex casual.

Sanders goes on, “Many college-aged youth do not get tested, for fear of their parents finding out and because of social stigma.” Sanders adds, “Psychological studies show that sex without commitment can lead to depression and becoming a dropout. The 2009 National Youth Risk Behavior Survey illuminates “a negative association between sexual risk behaviors and academic achievement.” Willow Sanders continues, “Sex is more than just physical body parts connecting together. There are also mental, emotional, social and spiritual components.” The two become one flesh, sharing their most intimate self with another person.

Protect the Heart (PTH) explains a safe route around the chaotic fallout of sex without marriage to both parents and youth. The organization asserts that youth must be proactive, developing healthy boundaries against temptation. Protect the Heart exists as a community resource, providing abstinence and sexual risk avoidance education to schools and the public. They also give direction for counseling to youth with pornography addictions.

Protect the Heart administers free and confidential STD testing for chlamydia, gonorrhea and HIV to both minors and adults at Care Net of the Treasure Coast, Florida locations (Fort Pierce and Stuart).

Willow Sanders is a certified Sexual Risk Avoidance counselor through ASCEND, formerly the National Abstinence Education Association in Washington D.C. Ms. Sanders also sits on the association’s national advisory board. She has been an employee of Care Net of the Treasure Coast since 2004.

Care Net of the Treasure Coast is an affiliate of Care Net National located in Virginia. There are over 1100 Care Net affiliates nationwide. The national organization “supports one of the largest networks of pregnancy centers in North America and runs the nation’s only real-time call center providing pregnancy decision coaching.” Care Net centers also provide free pregnancy tests, options counseling, information on abortion procedures and risks, STD/STI testing, limited ultrasound services, maternity/baby supplies, and job and housing assistance. Contact Care Net of the Treasure Coast at (772) 871-2211.

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