TJ of @tj_leather joined me for a conversation surrounding the LODD (Line of Duty Death) of his shift mate in 2018. You can find TJ on Instagram @tj_leather

TJ’s Suggested Books

The Daily Stoic



Stack: So we're sitting here this morning with TJ, from TJ leather, also out of Howard county, Maryland. , let him introduce himself real quick and give you a brief synopsis of where he's from and when we move 

TJ: on from there. Thank you. Yes. Hi, I'm TJ.

That's what I go by. Nobody's going to know me. My real name because that's a nickname. I acquired like day one at the fire department. I have been in Howard county, fire and Maryland for, we just hit nine years. . Currently assigned to station nine, the beast of the east, as the engine driver, that's a heavy vehicle operator, as we'd like to call them, it's a pretty bad ass name, I get to drive a cool crew and, it's fun.

It's been a progression and it's, , it's always an exciting gig. , and I'm super excited to be here. I'm going to try to limit the ums and the AHS. Cause I know all my speech, professors from college are going to be, if they ever listen to this, they're going to come after me with a sledgehammer. So I'll try to minimize those pauses.

And I'm just, I'm excited to be here. We'll talk about all things. Fire department things said. I can offer. We'll talk about what's Gabe, we'll talk about line of duty deaths and, what comes before and what comes after the things that you don't expect to things that you wish you had known and the transcendence, like the life before the event, the life during the event and the life after that event, that is so traumatizing.

And so life-changing, but I also think it's traumatizing if we let it, from our perspective, for like the family members, it's going to be the worst day of their lives. And I think one of our duties is to take that event and make something meaningful out of it I'm stealing this introduction for my buddy, Brian Butler out of trend fire from, urban fire training, great guy. But he started off basically outlining who he was, how he acts and basically being unapologetically himself. So me, sometimes I curse when I get excited and I need a filler word.

I apologize if you get offended by this, but if you're listening to a podcast and the objectionable as well, but yeah, I don't know what to tell you. If you're offended 

Stack: by curse words and you follow me and you're listening to me, then you're in deep trouble. 

TJ: You 

Stack: follow the wrong page. I too am going to limit my cursing, but it's going 

TJ: to jump out, look at us.

And we're trying to turn over new page and new leaf, whatever we say. I think 

Stack: the best quote could be. We're just going to be fucking 

TJ: adults or at least try having an I, yeah, 

the Colombian and me Columbia with the, oh, the south America, Columbia. I speak very fast and my accent might come out.

I'm not apologizing for that, but if I do go off the rails talking way too fast, let me know. And if we just go off the rails entirely, then that's life. There are some things that I'm going to be very passionate about when it comes to the fire service that I think will piss off a lot of people.

, that's fine. Like at least it's an impact. I'm not here to follow the status quo and to just tell you what you want to hear. And some things might just anger you and whatever, at least you're feeling something, but I'm not going to make an excuse for that. Or try to like a piece of his feelings.

Sorry about your luck. I 

Stack: think that again, if you follow me at all, that I'm not afraid to piss off the status quo. I'm not afraid of the dinosaurs as they've taken to calm themselves since I called them that. But let's start with Columbia. How was your upbringing there?

When did you leave? When did you come to the states? How did you come to. 

TJ: Most of my friends think that I just floated over and in a bathtub like a Cuban refugee. Luckily I was, I was not in that situation. I was born and raised in Columbia, in south America for the geographically challenged listeners.

I was born, they're born there in 87. So that's when things were kicking off. I Pablo Escobar was pretty well entrenched in power. That point, the leftist guerrillas were in that constant struggle of theirs that they had been going on. I think that struggle went on for 50 years.

And, , it was an interesting upbringing. It was, the country's beautiful. The people are great. The food is delicious. The weather is you can't beat it. It's springtime all around, but without the humidity. So the stuff that we're used to where we walk outside and immediately start sweating, no on.

So it was a great time. It was, , I live in a good neighborhood. Excuse me, I'm lucky that we never, we were not rich by any stretch of the imagination. We were middle-class. My mom stayed at home with me after I was born. So my dad was the sole breadwinner. I'm an only child. Some people who know me will know given some of my outbursts, but mom stayed home with me and raise me along with that.

And so we really didn't have two incomes, but we never really needed much. We never really wanted much. There were some times that, yeah, I couldn't get the Lego that I wanted for Christmas, you learn early on that. You can't really get everything you want from the get-go and. And there were times that we would struggle with money.

Maybe Hey, we don't know if we're going to be able to afford school or, try to have to, because you have to pay for school, whether you go to public or private school down there. So it doesn't really matter. You still have to pay and if you don't pay for it, then you just don't go to school.

And there were a couple of years that I was like, oh shit, like school or food. And and it's the perks of living in and growing up in the third world country, it was, there were some times that we had rolling blackouts because there was like an energy crisis. So I think that we had power for maybe six hours a day for a solid six months or something.

You're showering with a couple of buckets by candle light. And it was looking back when it's hilarious at the time, it was just, it was super weird. But again, like that's what I was used to. I come here now and I'm like, oh, okay. The power went out. No big deal. I can, I've lived with this before.

It's we'll figure it out. So born in Columbia race there till the age of 13, at which point, the company that my dad worked for was an American company doing, information, security, encryption computer nerd stuff. He's a nerd, I'm a nerd. It's awesome. But the company that he worked for basically said, Hey, we'll pay for you guys to move.

Bring everything, bring the furniture, bring the dog, we'll set you up with housing until we can figure shit out. And then you guys can go from there. And so we did landed in Baltimore in October of 2000. And I've been here ever since got my green card in 2009. I took for ever shout out to the scumbag immigration attorney who took our money and our time for so many.

I hope a seagull shits on your face, but yeah, looking back on it, like I'm here, I got the green card and then eventually in 2015, God and my citizenship took a test waved, the little American flag. Oh yeah. Pledged allegiance. And I was employed by Howard county at the time. So I'm like I'm glad that they led me in as a legal alien.

It's just weird that I was just some immigrant. And given some of the mentality that we have in the fire service, 

Stack: it's funny. W we've had a couple of guys in my department do the same thing to take the same route be legal alien and become a citizen while in the fire departments. It's it's fun to see 

TJ: it is.

It is. And we do I threw this, I think it was a legendary party. I don't remember it because I didn't eat that day. And of course at the time I drank way too much. So I blacked out within two hours, but. There were a lot of people there. Like I was inviting everybody. I invited everybody from the hospital.

I invited everybody from the fire department, from the police department. It was just, it was one of the many times that I got banned from Nottingham's in Columbia. That bar probably like once every three years they remind me that I probably shouldn't show my face around there, but I just give it time until they get new management.

And then they forget that I exist 

Stack: you out last, the ban. That's perfect. 

TJ: That's the whole point. You just lay low. Yeah, I think because for a graduation party, I have brought some, I brought some moonshot that I that I got in Florida in college and I had a couple of gallons. So we were just running around in this establishment with our own homemade liquor and so 

Stack: speaking of Florida, when did you start college? 

TJ: I graduated high school in oh six. I think that technically makes me a millennial, I think by where I'm, when I'm born in. And graduating and all that stuff. And went down to Embry-Riddle aeronautical university, by the way, that 

Stack: means 

TJ: he's smart.

That I don't know. I'm still a fireman at the end of the day, so I guess it just, it was a circuitous route he's smart. and makes bad 

Stack: decisions, 

TJ: Yeah that's pretty accurate. I I just, like I said, I've always been a nerd. I wanted to be an engineer and Embry-Riddle pretty much said Hey here's a scholarship can be a nerd engineer with us.

It's fun fact. I applied to MIT. They didn't accept me because I was not a citizen Carnegie Mellon. They accepted me, but they were not offering scholarships and Embry-Riddle accepted me and gave me a bit of a scholarship and I'm not talking like full ride. Like it was just enough to help out.

And that my family and I could between loans and working our asses off, we could pay off the rest of the stuff, but yeah, Embry-Riddle came back and dude, come hang out. And my first day on campus was was the day I moved in. I'm one of those guys that I make my big life decisions with.

Sometimes you just shooting from the hip. So I had never visited. I had never, I, one of my friends from back when I used to do civil air patrol stuff, he he went to Riddle and he recommended it and I'm like, fuck it. I'll apply that. Yeah. Like I think it was August of oh six. I rolled into two Embry riddle and 

Stack: not for those who might not know it's, that's pretty close to the coast in Florida.

I mean everything's close to coast and Florida, but it's that central Florida. The east coast. 

TJ: . Yeah. Daytona beach Florida in oh six. The romantic image of MTV spring break was gone because I think they had moved on to Panama city beach by that point. So we were just left with what that smoking crater and just the memories.

But it was cool because Daytona, if you've been there it's a tourist Florida town, but it's not, it's not a south beach, it's not a Ford Lauderdale. It's not a, Sanibel it's none of those like super fancy schmancy it's sometimes it's a little dumpy like it's, but it was great.

It was a great town to, to go to college in, because it's a fun, exciting way to, to grow up, to come of age. And I can vouch 

Stack: For fun. I, it wasn't college, but it was a fun place to go to high school and too close to the beach too close to the New Symrna too close to Daytona, but I can vouch for that.

TJ: You leave class. If you manage your time correctly, you can leave class and go hang out at the beach for a couple hours. We just said all the dumb shit, the college kids do. I remember, I think it was the shark lounge that had the, it was a strip club, of course. And it had a one-arm stripper who was very well-known.

And after the shark lounge close, we found a handful of alumni found the the sign to 1980s neon sign for shark language on Craigslist. We like, we were trying to scrape up funds cause we're still broke at that point. We were trying to buy it just for old time's sake, but somebody else sniped it from us.

But yeah, before we get off track, it was, Daytona was awesome. I grew up a lot. I've made a lot of friends, learn a lot and made a lot of dumb life decisions. Surprised I'm still alive in some regards. Between some of the clientele, some of the bikers, some of the things that, that we did, we we're lucky that we got out in one piece 

Stack: from college.

How did you end up back in Maryland? And 

TJ: so I thought it was going to be one of those things where I finished college leave with a, with an engineering degree, and then, like everybody else does go find a job, do the nine to five, , robotic to my grave. , all that bullshit.

But remember I was still not a citizen. So all the stuff that I learned, all the fancy schmancy, computer and electrical engineering stuff, project management, I couldn't get any of those jobs with a big companies because most of them require a secret or top secret. And I was like, Cranks out a lot of people for places like Northrop for Lockheed, for, I don't know if AAI is still in business.

And I think it's Textron by now in-situ was a big one because that was the old Embry-Riddle president who found it like a bunch of unmanned. Unmanned systems were just becoming, I want to say mainstream, if you will, but they were just coming of age. And so a bunch of our grads were going to those at Boeing, that kind of stuff.

And I wanted to work with unmanned aerial systems, but again, you're in the U S because of all the regulations is not going to give some immigrant kid access to all these unmanned systems, because top secret clearance blah-blah-blah so it kinda sucked. But I figured out college was a lot of fun.

So why not extend it? I applied to Embry-Riddle again, and I stayed for my math. And I was one of the first ones to leave with a, it was a new degree track. It was a master's in electrical and computer engineering. It was just basically a way to kill two years of my life getting one more degree.

It was not like undergrad. It was a lot of work I had, I weigh less partying, way more working, way more headaches. And so by the time 2012 rolled around, I was, I wasn't going to do a PhD. I don't have the time or the, it just didn't call to me at that point. And I saw one of my friends from the volley house back home had posted like, Hey Howard, county's hiring.

And on a whim spring break of 2012 I sent the application in and got the ball rolling. So that by the time that I moved back to Maryland unemployed with a shitload of student loans with no real prospects, that's when Howard county. The correspondence and, doing the CPAT and the interviews and all the other stuff.

And January 2nd, 2013 was the first day of the academy, 

Stack: January 2nd, 2013. Trying to remember, I started in July of 2013, so we're just started right around the same time. So then from the academy, where did you go?

TJ: So six months of the academy and I was one of the lucky ones. And at the time, it's still a feather in my cap, but it was super exciting because I I had a battalion chief who approached me to the battalion chief in charge of special operations at one of the house burnings that we're doing for training at the end of the academy.

And he asked me if I would be interested in in the special operations side of things. And to me that. Basically everything that my nerdy self wants it's the hazmat and the ropes and the collapse and all those disciplines that require you to be a brainiac while still doing firefighters shit. So of course I said, yes, sir, I'm very interested.

And I was very privileged to, to come straight out of the academy into station 10 into our special operations firehouse, which is where I did eight years, eight years of my career. It was so 

Stack: What's at station 10. What makes it special ops? So 

TJ: station 10 is the main special operations firehouse where basically the majority of the team's equipment is, and the majority of our technicians are assigned.

So station 10, runs an engine at the time, we had three on the engine around a little, a tower ladder truck with the big bucket, with four on it paramedic unit and out of the back is our pod system. And I think I always go back to pods, the moving company, but it's not the, it's a similar concept, but it's basically these roll-off boxes that you pick up and you put down with a hook lift system with basically like a dumpster truck on steroids with this bad-ass like hydraulic hook with a finger.

And I think pod stands for platform on demand. So you're like, Hey, I need, the collapsed pod and you can dump this entire container full of all the collapse gear that you need while the truck goes out and picks up, the support pod or things like that. So we had things that, pod for hazmat responses for collapse for trench.

We have one set up as a logistics, one, which the front like the back half is. A bunch of extra hazmat supplies in the front is this like command center. So we used that one a lot when we were doing joint operations with the police department for missing persons searches. So again, it was, it, I love it.

It was all the cool equipment, all the cool things, all the exciting calls and the prospect of those exciting calls. I was able, and I was, it's a dubious honor, but both times that Ellicott city flooded, I was part of that relief effort. It's, it's one of those things that happens, we say once in a career, but it happened twice in a career.

Stack: They call it the thousand-year floods and it happened twice. Within what, five years. 

TJ: It was within two years. Yeah, it was less. Yeah. The first one was in 2016 and the second one was in, in 2018. It's hard to call it a thousand 

Stack: year flood when it happens twice 

TJ: in two years. Yeah. Some people are going to get that and they're going to get riled up because I know the county's taking still a lot of heat for what the citizens feel is an oversight on their part.

We did a lot of cool stuff. Met, met some good friends a lot of good friends, like my buddy George she's flying helicopters for the army right now. He's going to be happy that I gave him a shout out on the podcast, but I am not going to say all the dumb things that he and I have done because then people will just lose faith in the fire service and in 911.

But yeah, I spent, I was a . 2013 to 2021. And that is, that encompasses the time that, that we experienced the line of duty death at woodscape, which I think is where we're headed next. Yeah. We're going 

Stack: to get that. I wanted to ask you what does your personal life was like during this time that you're a special ops?

So that from the time you were at the academy until this till 

TJ: 2021 so I was, oh God. Yeah, this is where we get deep. I was dating this girl that I met before starting grad school. So I dated, her throughout grad school and then throughout the academy. And by that point, the relationship was just a mess.

Yeah, like Jesus Christ. I can't believe I stayed. And you know what fucking in the sh like sense of being open, like it was. Emotionally and psychologically and sometimes physically abusive. Which sometimes we carry that stigma of oh, man can't, like the men are the ones doing the abusing, not the ones getting abused, but there were some things that like, looking back when I'm like, holy fuck.

Like she was just, and I'm not going to say any names. And if she hears that, whatever, I don't give a shit. But like I said, I'm an only child Latin American, which means our family, like nuclear structure is very strong and she kept trying to drive a wedge between my parents and me for stupid fucking reasons.

So in that front the first few years of my fire department career was just a mess like emotionally and psychologically. After that breakup, it was just, I guess I know in a way a newfound freedom, if you will, it's just something I hadn't experienced before because nerd in college, not like.

Getting laid dating anybody because I was a fucking nerd at Embry-Riddle. And now here I am single and somehow people like firefighters and just trying to figure out how to deal with people that are not out to fuck with my mind. So yeah, there was a lot of partying. It was a lot of drinking way too many, like mornings waking up, God knows where next to God knows who.

And you're like, holy shit. Like I need to curb this a little bit, but again you got to take it as what it is and it's growth. It's, if you survive it and if you don't treat it as growth, then that's a mistake. But, I made it through, I avoided all the bad stuff like pregnancies and STDs and fucking angry ex boyfriends didn't catch a DUI or anything like that.

So hell dude. And I learned a lot, but but yeah, like it was. It was a it's uncomfortable to talk about, but it was just living very fast, get out of work on like minimal sleep because I'd stay up all night in between running calls and just fucking around the firehouse go home workout, go hang out at the volunteer firehouse.

Maybe do a little bit of leather work on the side because by this point it's turning into a steadier hobby and then go out to a bar and drink all night and, party with friends and party with strangers. And just, excuse me, just party, just run up my tab and wake up the following morning, hung over and go to the gym, hung over and do it all over again till I have to go back to work.

So it was a very self-destructive cycle, but again, made some good friends, made some friends that, you stopped drinking and then they just disappear. But still made. I made some lifelong friends, had some good adventures. Again, George and I did a lot of dumb things. Looking back on it now we can laugh about and so yeah, emotionally and just, there was no, maturity, I refused to use that word because, I still do a lot of dumb things at work are like, yeah.

We're not even going to go into 

Stack: that. One thing that we all have in common is a lack of maturity. I don't care where we're at in our careers or our lives firemen or are immature at times. 

TJ: Yeah. 100%. And yeah, so that took me up until, because I think that the turning point was 2018.

So it wasn't a, I thought I was in a good state of mind and the good thing that I had done, actually leading up to that breakup from that shitty relationship is that I admitted to myself. I'm like, I think I'm depressed because I was. Shitload of student loans and a bad relationship. That's now taking a toll on my relationship with my parents, with my friends work was not the easiest because that crew at the time, it was not the easiest to deal with, especially as you and I came in with a weird attitude.

And, I came in with a master's degree. I thought I was not hot shit, but I thought that life was going to be different. I struggled a bit with the whole concept of Hey, nose to the grindstone, pay the dues. I thought, because it was special ops. And because I had that feather in my cap from the academy that it was going to be like, Hey, we're all friends sadly mistaken or whatever I learned from that.

But yeah when I realized that I was going through depression and kind of came to terms with that, I find myself a therapist and. Probably one of the smartest things that I have ever done in my life. And it was weird because I was really worried about the stigma that would come from having, from seeking help within the fire service.

Because, we're always like, Brah, I don't need any help. I'm just going to go do a shot about it and be a man and move on. Like I started volunteering at 18. Like I think I had some dude spill his brains on my hand at 18 after I had just left some high school track practice, say what you will like developmentally, we're still kids at 18.

So that was, that's one of those fuck up. There was a lot of like the volley house was good for extra cuts for like gnarly. Extrications like, I got a lot of tool time, very early on in, in my fire service career, but all that shit sticks with you and it starts showing up and manifesting.

There were some spots, some roads that I could not drive without going into a mild. Anxiety attack. And it was subconscious. Like I would just feel myself gripping the steering wheel and start sweating and the thoughts racing, because the last time that I was there, it was a very traumatic experience.

So I got the therapist, started talking to her and I still talk to her. I talked to her yesterday, so we're going on eight years now that we've known each other. And the stigma has gone away because eventually I came to the point that I'm like, fuck it. They like the department's not going to give me any shit.

They put all those peer support posters and Hey, if something happens, come talk to us, blah, blah, blah. I'm like, I'm talking to a therapist. So there, the departments is good in that regard and that they're not going to officially or unofficially give you shin. And the crews, I don't care.

You know what I mean? We go to a mechanic when the check engine lights on, or we hook it up, we diagnose it ourselves. We can figure it out. We go to a dentist, I can't figure out how to do dental work. Like we go to doctors, we have people come work on the house, all those things, why not work on ourselves.

And that was my thought process. And that was that liberating point of I will tell people I don't have a problem telling people that I have sought help and I, that I still seek help. And yeah that's been one of my, excuse me, one of my fire department crusades that trying to de-stigmatize if you will, the concept of therapy.


Stack: 2013 rookie at station 10 special ops ladder engine medic, these pods that you talked about. Comes 2018. Is that when Nate joined? Yeah, 

TJ: it came to us in, I think it was at the end of 2017. And so a couple of things before we get into the whole woodscape thing, one, this bears repeating, but these are my opinions, Howard county, please don't fire me.

I'm not going to make you look bad. But if I say some things, I go against the status quo. This is just me. I'm not representing Howard county. It's just TJ. And also don't Sue TJ leather. I like doing other work, but yeah. And also, yeah, so preemptively don't Sue me. I'm going to say shit, that's going to piss you off, but I'm not trying to make people look bad, but number two, we're not going to spend a lot of time going into the event itself and to woods scape because you and I spent three and a half hours on the phone, just talking about that part, not so much the operating and the app.

If you want to read about that, I know Josh Perchik published an awesome article on fire engineering. He was part of the red team that actually found Nate and brought them out and he's way better spoken and writes way better than I could ever do it. So he's going to do it more justice than me.

And and then my now captain Joe Knecht he's, there's a video of him floating around from the last Nate Flynn training days where he also talks about that. And again, Joe is, he's a very observant man and he's very smart. So you will learn from watching the video. So tactically strategically, if you want to learn what happened, if you don't know yet, go find the article, go find the YouTube video, the Nate Flynn.

I think it's training days. I don't know 

Stack: what I can do is I can add those links to those two notes and we'll go from there, make 

TJ: it easier. Find those I'm not going to, I could not do it justice as well as they can, but yeah. Nate came to us in 17. I think he had come from station five, which is a slower station.

It's it's in Clarksville. It's yeah, it's in a very moneyed area and they are not as busy as us. So he came to us, assigned to the engine and as is always the case, especially in an alpha dominated crew, there were some growing pains. There were some, I don't want to say issues, but there were some that the pecking order had to be established and re-establish a couple of times so that everybody was back into a normal routine.

And Nate was a quiet guy Nate wouldn't. He came in, married with kids and then he finds George. He finds me being just a bunch of clowns or buddy Ryan also clown, even though he's also married with kids, just young kids doing dumb young kid stuff. And then some of the older guys are just, they get to bed early and they don't fuck around as much as we do.

And they don't have, water fights in the engine bay, stuff like that. So I think for him, it was also a culture shock and but yeah, it was we all started just kinda meshing and the thing with what we do in special ops that it's cyclical are, let me rewind a little bit.

When you show up to a new crew, you give it a couple of months to just get used to how things work, who does wide, like I said, the pecking order and the routine, but with special ops, with all the disciplines that, that we deal with and that station tenders responsible for that cycle. Spans more along the lines of a year, because every year you have to do the hazmat recert and the rope recert.

And so in order for you to mesh with your crew and start figuring out each other's strengths and weaknesses, you have to give it a couple of years to really get a whole picture. Not just a few shifts it takes awhile. So we didn't even get that chance because Woodscape happened in mid 2018.

So we're in the process of just building that and learn from one another. We had some leadership changes in the process too. Some, you decapitate the snake, if you will. And it's the body does what it does for awhile. So when we have those leadership changes that things just slowed down in, in the sense of, we weren't quite clicking .

But yeah, then we fast forward to 2018 to our shifts. I was actually working July 22nd, 2018. And now remember I'm coming in with this living very fast mentality. I'm like running on two hours asleep. I showed up to work at four in the morning to work out before my shift. And it was a Sunday, everybody just hanging out and we did breakfast.

We were all arguing amongst ourselves because it was time to do the level, a suit pressure testing, which happens every year. And somehow we forget it every year. It's I don't know how it all our faults were always like, oh fuck, like that's due. That was due like three weeks ago. And we always forget it.

Every it never fails. So we're, we're scrambling, we're trying to get that done where we're bickering amongst ourselves and and running. So majority of bullshit calls at the time we had Nate was writing on the engine with, it was just a driver, the officer who was a detailed Lieutenant because our assigned Lieutenant was I think, on a vacation with his family.

So it was driver Lieutenant and Nate in the back at the time, like I said, we had only three on the engine. I was very excited because I was riding bar on tower 10. My buddy Griffin was next to me. He was outside vent. And then we had Timmy driving. Who's probably like the best tower driver I've ever met in my, I ha that dude can take that big honking beast and put it in some places that you just can't believe.

And then Joe Knecht he was the Lieutenant assigned to a tower at the time. George and Ryan were on the medic unit. My two good friends. And then Mike was on the pods. So that's like the players. I had my first day of instructor, one training class in the morning. I don't even know why I wanted to do that.

Stupid class and yeah, I think I went to bed at like midnight. Cause again I like to burn the midnight oil and stay up late. I was trying to figure out a database for the suit testing. So we wouldn't end up fighting again the following year and few hours in the night, even two hours later.

But a few hours later we got picked up for the came in as a local box for the, I think it was odor a smoke. Yeah. Some something out in Clarksville. We went on the tower and. That was Woodscape we showed up. And it was not just an odor burning. It was just smoke banking across the lawn of this gigantic.

I'm talking massive house. And yeah, like I said, I can sit here and relive that whole incident, but things went south. Nate fell through a floor, he fought for solid six minutes. And then when the guys from station seven pulled him out, he was, he was pretty fucked up. Like he w he was in bad shape.

And then they, our shift mates, George Ryan took him to the hospital along with a ton of medics on the medic unit. And that's when next part of the story begins because that's when the acting fire chief pulled everyone aside and said, Hey he didn't make it. And I think that's what. I'm pretty sure that's.

That was the moment when everything just changed because now the job really became real. Like it's not just oh my God close call ra ra. This is so cool. That's it. And once you're gone. There's no, there was no restart from less checkpoint. Like when a fucking video game, like it's game over.

And now you're going back and his truck is still at the station and all those thoughts start hitting you. And then you realize that if we're feeling this way, how is his wife feeling? Just all of those things? There was that morning was hard. There's a lot of things I still, I think traumatic.

Got blocked out in my memory. There were some things that I still want to like, imagine just a big question, mark, that I'm trying to minimize as the years go on. I try to get more and more information. I know I'm not going to have all the facts, but there are things that I just want to make that question mark as little, like as tiny as possible.

What do you mean by that? So I, Nate called a Mayday on Bravo two on our channel, Bravo two, we were operating on Bravo one at the time everybody's radio is on scan and I had mine will scan. I heard his voice call some sort of Mayday because my radio was scanning and nobody else was talking and Bravo one.

So obviously the scan feature is going to pick up on Bravo to . And I remember talking to Joe and I'm pretty sure I heard Nate call mayday, but to this day, I can't tell you what he said. I just remember it was. And the county and dispatch, everybody has the audio of the may day.

And there's been a few times that I've made the attempt. I'm like, Hey, can I listen to it? And this part really pisses me off because now they're like no. Like you just know that he did what he was supposed to. And it really pisses me off because it's a bunch of people who were not on scene trying to tell me how to feel, how not to feel.

And dude, I'm a fucking adult. I don't need you to tell me try to save me from a feeling or from a sadness or try to protect me in that regard. Especially when I feel that quite honestly. Why do you get to listen to it? Why do you have to hoard that knowledge and not us we're there because in my mind I heard it.

I want to know what he said, and it's not some morbid thing. It's just me wanting. Clear up more of that night. Trauma does weird shit to you. It like some people react differently. Mine. I just it's happened before. Like we, we cut some dudes, family out of a car on the Beller bypass and like looking back, one of the family that had the most horrific injuries known to man, like I'm talking like, like mutilated kids, legs amputated the whole nine.

And I think like almost decapitated. I don't remember that. Like I don't the visuals, they're not there. I just remember there was lots of blood, lots of screams, lots of helplessness because we couldn't do anything at that point. And I saw, I know that being where I was, what I was doing, I saw those victims.

It didn't register. So same thing. Woodscape, like after the whole trauma, after everything, after experiencing that loss, I know I heard him, but I don't know what he said. And. Yeah, it would be it's closure. It's not going to do anything. It's not going to bring him back. It's not going to make me a better fighter firefighter.

It's not going to make a difference for the citizens we serve, but it's closure. And I think closure is important. And now it's, some desk dweller trying to tell me what I can and can't listen to because, oh, it's, it might be bad for you. Like I'm still bitter about that. And I'm going to still keep fighting to get that audio.

I I don't care if I piss off people about that because quite honestly, they were not there that were not his shift mate and fuck you. Why do you get to listen to that? And not me. So it was 

Stack: the audio of the Mayday not released in any of 

TJ: the reports? Nothing. Nothing. It was not. Let me talk about reports.

There was a internal report that Howard county did. I haven't read it in its entirety. It's out there. Some of those things that are on it, don't quite jive with what happened, but you know what, it's, whatever, it's a county document. I'm not going to try to change things. It's it says what it says.

The audio, the transcript was not released. They basically said, Hey, he called a Mayday. He did what we supposed to do. He did the who, what, where, when . But, and maybe if Celeste if Celeste, his wife didn't want to released then Hey she's the ultimate authority. If she says nobody listens to it, you know what, that's it, nobody listens to it.

And that, but honestly, that, that is the ultimate authority that I respect in that regard. But yeah, but we still don't have a NIOSH report. We're going on four years. And that's another thing that angers me is that we used to say that the, when we do dumb shit, we are. A year and a day away from a NIOSH report because the NIOSH report usually comes out within a year.

And we're going on four years and there's still nothing, they, Adam St. John was supposed to do his, fire behavior modeling for it. But I think he went off to do other stuff with the ATF and then COVID happened. So of course that's a giant umbrella of nothing happens because of COVID and it'll never happen again.

I'm still bitter about that. It's four fucking years. And the NIOSH report is not going to tell me anything new, but again, it's that closure. And now we're accountable to ourselves. To the citizens into the fire service as a whole. And I think, I don't think we're ready for that. I think it would make us look bad because anytime you lose, somebody shit want bad.

There's no ifs, ands or buts. And I'm not trying to shit on my department because I love majority of the people in it. And then I believe in what we do, but we lost somebody that's that is the worst looking thing on earth when you come back one less person. So I mean that bandaid has to get ripped out and ripped off and we need to, I don't know, it's I selfishly want that closure and.

I've always been a contrarian and which is funny how I ended up in a fire department and anti-authority in a way, so I'm always like, why does the brass not want it, why are we not releasing it? Where is it? Why do they not care? And that's, I think also a reaction to, Hey, I was there, Hey, I experienced it.

And I feel that people who have no direct relationship to it are dishonoring it, if that makes sense. And I know it's a fucked up response because like somebody that I hung out with in college could die tomorrow and it's still gonna hurt me because I knew them because I was friends with them, even though I was not directly with them at that point, because trauma and grief affects people different ways, but still at that, my, the contrarian me the.

The antiestablishment is in me is what are we doing? Why you're not honoring the people who were there. You're not honoring his widow and his kids like NIOSH. The part, like whoever the fuck needs to do it, just release it. Dude, let it say what it says. It's not going to make us look any worse than where he did that day.

You know what I mean? And but we've made strides in fixing those things and this is where I do my damage controls. I want to get the fucking fired, but but yeah, no and true defense of the department we we went from three on our engine to four increased staffing and a bunch of different stations recently change all our general orders and our tactics to, they needed updating.

They were a bit old and they were many pages long. You're like trying to figure. We're supposed to fight a structure fire, but I have to read an entire encyclopedia. So there have been changes. So that 

Stack: night Nate dies. You guys. What time do you guys find out? 

TJ: So we, they pulled him out.

The crews who were involved just kinda found, this property was huge. So the guys from station seven ended up in this like gazebo, tanning area near the pool house. The crew from tower 10 ended up at the like outdoor bar and grill on the other side of the pool. So like kind of crews just started like clustering together and going off to different places, changing cylinders and just kinda catching our breath and looking at each other holy fuck, that was rough.

And we probably, I don't know, we probably. Put in another half hour, 45 minutes of work until they they came over the radio and they said, Hey, like second and third alarm. I think by that point, we were at a third alarm. If not more Hey the balance of the units are here. The first alarm people they need to meet by the by then we had brought the medical ambulance bus the gigantic school bus converted to carry patients.

So they're like, Hey everybody, go hang out at the MAB. And from the first alarm assignment. And that's when our acting fire chief broke the news. Cause our real fire chief was out of the country. I think he was in Africa helping stand up a fire department over. Imagine that news. So you find out on scene.

Yeah. We found out on scene and thank God I do. I would have gone ballistic if somebody had told me like, yeah, we knew hours ago, we just didn't want to tell anybody, like it would have you would've seen the true Colombian and me just come out and just pure rage. So from 

Stack: on-scene you go back to the station and 

TJ: on scene, everybody loaded in the MAB and went to the hospital and we're offering like obviously surprising, no one firefighters and the hospital staff, the nurses, the doctors were all friends.

We all go out and drink too much together. And everybody dates within those circles. But kudos to them because we all knew one another. And I think the charge nurse that night or the clinical coordinator, somebody that night basically moved all the patients away from the wing where Nate was and basically said, Hey, fire and rescue, this is your area.

Blocking the doors posting security. If you don't want anybody here, we'll get them kicked out. There's no patients, you guys have do whatever you want. We'll bring your RefreshMints. So it was it was a very appreciated gesture. So we went to the hospital that was by then it was like three in the morning.

That's when I called my parents. That was the worst phone call of my life. Having to wake up my mother who immediately starts crying and I'm like, it wasn't me. I'm okay. But it is you'll see it on the news. It's the worst thing that could have happened. Like we lost one of the guys and he was my shift mate.

And hung up with them, dried my tears and try to walk outside, try to be Billy bad-ass. And we just, we waited Celeste was brought in. So we all lined the hallways like a ceremonial thing. . So all of us from 10 the stragglers who had been off that, that night, who kept back, coming back in, we all drove with him to the office of the medical examiner in Baltimore.

And and again, like the fire service being what it is, every overpass had apparatus rendering the runners. So it was cool. You'll hear me talk. There's a lot of things that we do, I think in the fire service, just for show that I think are cringy. And if you guys know my sticker fundraiser for Baltimore city, that I have no qualms about taking shots at cringy things, but that gesture was pretty wonderful.

But I'll talk about later how we just get saturated with the, the, we got it from here, brother kind of shit. So yeah, we took them to the MES office. Everybody came back. We went back to station 10 on, let me crack my knuckles because now this is where I get on my soap box. We get back to the station 10, right?

The station that we had left at two that morning. I forget what time, I would remember the times if I had a NIOSH report to read from, but we got back and it was no longer our station. I'm talking every swinging Dick in the Eastern seaboard was there. We had politicians, current chiefs, retired, achieves, volunteer chiefs, peer support teams from the entire region mission BBQ was there.

Kudos to them, but anything bad happens. And they show up. You're like, dude, how the fuck did you guys hear? So quickly, like everybody, it was like a station made for at the time 10 people. And now we have 40, the oncoming shifts where they are the off going. Like I remember Tom Boyd was, and the people who listen to this who know Boyd he's retired, but he was out there like literally polishing the the metal plates for the light switches.

Like that dude like kept the station tip-top shape, but it's out there doing that. And it was a shock because we come in, all we wanted to do was drink some coffee, hang out at the kitchen table, but we can't, and we can't really kick out the politicians and the chiefs because now, we're going to be assholes.

Then again, I think we would have had a carte blanche because, covered under the gigantic umbrella of, PTSD. And that's why these guys lost their minds. And I wish we had done that. I wish we had just flipped a table and been like, get the fuck out if you don't work here. And again, this is me.

I wish we had done that a little bit. Emotional. Yeah, we didn't have a real fire station at that point. We I remember having to wait in line to go take a shower in my own stations, bathroom, because there were people from 14 different counties waiting in line to go to the bathroom. Is this a fucking concert?

Like, where am I? Yeah. So if this ever happens again in Howard, while I'm still alive, I'm probably posting out front of that firehouse, whatever fire has, it happens with a machete and like checking IDs. And if somebody doesn't belong there, I'm not going to let them in because it is so it's just so bad for the crew.

Like, all you want to do is go to your home and you don't need all those strangers. Granted, a lot of people we knew, but you're still a stranger. You weren't there. You like, we peer support. I get it. We'll reach out. And those like, again, it got annoying for months on end. They would show up every shift.

Hey, you guys want to talk like, nah, dude, we'll reach out. When we need help, the politicians, the mission barbecue. Did we all gain fucking 10 pounds within the month because people kept bringing food and more stuff, which again, it's a great gesture. Don't and I'm probably going to piss off people.

I don't care. I'm not being thankless. I'm not being I'm very appreciative and especially seeing the community, the firefighting community and our community at large be so caring for us, but no time in a place, like if this happens, Hey, maybe. I don't know, like an incident command post or something we make use of this ICS system and have somebody in logistics deal with all that shit and call us, be like, Hey, do you guys need this?

No. Okay. You don't need food. We'll distribute it to other places, give it to a food bank, but we don't have to turn donations away, but a way to filter them to the firehouse because all we wanted to do was get back to normal. We want to cook our own meals. We wanted to have the same shenanigans in the kitchen, throw shit at each other and have people chase you out of the kitchen with a knife because you're knowing them while they're trying to chop veggies like the usual firehouse things that you do to make it back to normal.

We didn't have that. And we didn't have that for a long time. Every morning. We'd come in, there'd be a fresh bouquet of flowers outside by the sign, surrounded by all the other dead and dying ones that you just get saturated. I didn't like thin red line stuff before then, and afterwards fucking hate it.

It's all too showy for me. It's all that stuff that we got it from here. All again to me, this is me. I'm not speaking for anybody else, but me it's fucking bullshit. Come at me. I don't care. Oh God, the cringy artwork, the amount of stuff. Like I remember somebody made a fucking picture of our fire engine in the clouds, which again, it's a Pierce, it's not going to go airborne thing.

Barely fucking works. But I'm like fire engine in the clouds with sunrays coming behind it and like black bunting with Nate's name on and people make t-shirts and they're like, Hey, do you love them? I'm like, in fact, I hated the more I look at him because I don't know, like again, I'm not telling people how to deal with grief,

I don't want to see some stranger. I don't know wearing a t-shirt commemorating, somebody that I know and they're doing it just because of the clout. Like it's, it was a lot, it was a lot. It was it there, we need to be better about dealing with the crews who go through this in a more tactful way, in a more appropriate way.

W we don't need that immediate flood of attention. We don't need all those things. We saw it happen in Baltimore city. Now I'll get to my crusade in that regard when we lost the three firefighters, Kenny Paul and Kelsey, in the city a couple of months ago it's a lot, it's a lot.

And there's people who show up trying to make a quick buck. There's people who have genuine intentions and there's people who do it just because, they want to look cool. They, and they're like, oh, fuck. Yeah. We got it from here, brother. Never forget. And whatever, he didn't know those people.

There was somebody that was a lady of the hospital. To this day, claims will have been best friends with Nate, which was lies. She had two tattoos with his name on them and everything that I might do this is, I'm embarrassed for you, but it's, but again, like it's my grief. It's our grief. It's his wife's grief.

It's his crew's grieve. Like it's a grief for the fire department. If he didn't know the guy, just let us be like, tragedy is not the time for you to get your social media clout. And that goes for that person, for everybody else who we did the same thing. Dude, it's for you. It's just a Facebook post and an Instagram story to get likes.

But we live with that. Celeste lost her husband and the father of her kids. It's not a fucking joke. It's not a social media thing. It's not something you can turn off by shutting down your app. You, we live with this. Like we every single day it's you're like, Hey, I was there. I did it.

I, I experienced it. 

Stack: So from that night, how does, how do things progress for you personally in your reaction to the trauma? 

TJ: Yeah, I think I went off the rails in that. No, you're fine. Again, I'm pontificating and I don't take back any of what I said. I'll fight. I got home and the best thing I did was, and again, I don't remember doing this, but I called my therapist and I left a voicemail and explained what happened.

And I crashed, I just went to, I couldn't, I was going to drink a bottle of some like homemade liquor. My girlfriend found me on the couch, like still in, in my work clothes with the bottle, not even open. So the smartest thing was. Starting that help early and kudos to her because she called me the following day.

She was like, dude, I will clear my schedule. If you want to do it on the phone, if you want to come by I don't care. Like you tell me when and where, and I will be there. And so that, I that's key because that's professional help. That is somebody who will, who knows trauma, who knows grief, who knows how the brain works and who has experienced with other people who have studied it.

I'm, again, I'm a nerd. I believe in and people being specialized in this, their field of science and yeah, so she was able to start guiding me in that professional, like science-based approach to dealing with it.

I don't think I don't remember. We just talk, we just talked and she's good at, she just lets me ramble on. And then she picks out the tidbits and basically rephrasing what I said, puts so many things into perspective and I internalize, and then I deal with that. So that's what we did. And that was key.

Like again therapy. And I know some guys took, it, took him a while to get therapy and but I think a majority of us ended up seeing somebody in some way, shape or form, be it a life coach, be it a therapist, but like whatever. And I also, I don't remember when, but I made the conscious decision. I'm like, this is going to be when I either spiral or when I claw myself out of this hole and I'm like, I'm not going to.

Taint the memory of what we did, because even though we lost one of our guys that was, I saw the best in the fire service at night, like the amount of just selfless dangerous work, because we always say yeah, we'll do it for one another. We'll be there for each other, . Give my life for you.

All that bullshit that we say. But that night, that morning, technically like it was like I'm proud of the people who put in that work that night, like the guys from seven, especially like absolute fucking machines. Like they came out bells ringing collapsing, those dudes are the ones that are going to come and get you whatever it takes.

I try to look at the positive and not taint the memory of those who were there. Taint the memory of Nate or. Or do anything to bring any discredit to it. So I'm like, I'm not going to drown myself. I'm not going to go down that spiral and do something stupid, because how many times do we see it?

Oh, got a DUI beat his wife, , killed somebody, but it's PTSD. I'm like, I'm not going to be that statistic. I I refuse to, I will fight it as much as I can. So that was the beginning of over the end for my drinking habit. I'll partake every now and then, , I went from those days closing that bar.

So now I like have a glass of wine and I ended up asleep within 20 minutes. But yeah, so it was, therapy. I cut back on the things that I knew were going to increase my anxiety and make me feel even worse. And this is a fault of mine. I just went full steam ahead into the job. After the Memorial services, after everything was said and done, it was game on.

I had been doing driver's training. I'm like, I want to do it even more. I want to do every facet of this job. I I started working part-time up in Hartford, county's technical rescue team, which is where I lived at the time. So when I'm trying to do a special ops at work, special ops outside of work, hitting the gym, nurturing this relationship that, like doing all of these things, going all at once.

Boom boom one after the other. And while it was good, I still spread myself entirely way too thin because I think that was a way of me almost running away from the trauma because I'm like, Hey, if I just overload myself. Oh yeah. And in the background too, they're still TJ leather that I'm trying to grow this business.

So I'm like, if I do all these things. I'm not going to have time to sit there and think, and remember, and be sad when, I failed in that regard. That's not the way to do it. That's just a way to burn out quickly. So yeah, I had to cut a lot of that shit back. I, it was just, it was too much, it was entirely too many things at once.


Stack: you're in a rare position that you took the steps before any kind of tragedy happened. And you had a therapist, you had someone you had a relationship with and then that trauma, then the major trauma strike. Correct. And so you had a, an established relationship. So I think that's key right there.

You already had somebody you're working with you already were comfortable talking to somebody and you're able to take that and just move on with 

TJ: it. Yes. And I think that's worth exploring. I'm glad you bring it up because I remember when I first went to my therapist's office, how. Just weird. It felt how, because you're admitting that you can't handle something that, that you need help, which for all of us type a plus personalities in the fire service and a special operations feel like it's hard.

It's hard to admit that I don't have all the tools and the knowledge to do it. So I'm very thankful that it had, that. I had that relationship going with my therapist before anything happened, because I was okay with opening up and with being vulnerable and with just letting everything out. And I tried my best to just talk to the shift.

I As, as best as I could, because, there's such a thing as trying to push a good thing too much. And, but I know it had to be really hard for them when they started talking to people because the catalyst was a tragedy and now it's even harder because now you have to acknowledge the tragedy.

And then the things we all carry leading up to it. So it's my heart goes out to them and I hope they're still getting help because we all did. We all fucking need it all like day in and day out. It's important. And let this be that call to action for people who might be listening right now, who are thinking that therapy is not for me, those things are like, dude, it doesn't make you any less of a fireman.

It doesn't make you any less of a person. You look at the people that pick. We have an obsession with the high-performing like military teams, pick the seal teams, pick the green Berets, those dudes do things like yoga and meditating, and I guarantee you, they talk to shrinks.

So all of these non manly pursuits. If you're listening right now, and those are your, like your role models, they do all those quote unquote non manly things. So fuck it. Start taking care of yourself, , especially in this job, we see the best and the worst of humanity and we're running on two hours of sleep.

We're probably still hung over and we're dealing with shit at home. Talk to somebody. It helps it. It's why we are that ball of like spaghetti with all the thoughts and feelings and memories. And the whole point is to take one noodle at a time. And I hope there's some fat kid right now. Like salivating, , I take on one noodle at a time and lay it on the plate and it's all gonna get balled up again.

But the more you do it slowly, you acknowledge what's been going on, the more organized and the more you're going to feel that your thoughts make sense and that you are better equipped. For dealing with those curve balls and the tragedies that, that life throws at you. So yeah, it's dude, that's key.

And we should not, I like the peer support team idea, but we should also move past that because there comes a point that I don't just want to talk to somebody. I want to go to a professional that tells me, this is why you're feeling this, like when we get to the root cause of it, these are the chemical imbalances.

Like my therapist dude, your cortisol is probably through the roof right now. Probably yes. Like probably still is, but it's key again, repeating the call to action, go find a therapist. These are the things that we all carry day in and day out, start unraveling that ball of spaghetti and start doing those things that are going to increase your longevity in this job.

And you don't want to be one of those dudes who's demons get the best of him on the job, or a day after retirement, the firehouse is not our shrink, because one day we're going to walk out for last time. So fuck it. Like you owe it to yourself and your family and your loved ones and your friends to be good during, and after the job you leave, make sure you're almost in good shape, if not better shape mentally, emotionally, physically, as when you came in and live that life, dude we do a lot and when we get to retirement, we fucking earned that.

So go out and go out and do it well and do it in a healthy manner demons are always going to be there, but there's a way of dealing with them that does include drugs or alcohol. Maybe by the time that we were tired, we can do weed and not be a stigma. 

Stack: All right. On that note, , I have two different questions for you.

Obviously the show is called the things we all carry. We carry things out of a call, but we all carry something into a call. So what's your every day carry

TJ: are we talking gear wise now? Aren't we talking just everyday carry it doesn't matter, dude. We can do yeah, we can do an entire episode on things that I feel that we should carry on 

Stack: our person on you're on the rig one day.

What's an everyday carry. 

TJ: What's an everyday carry. The one thing that I will always swear by is those the cutters, the wire cutters, the spring loaded wire cutters, obviously that's a physical thing. It came into play that night at woods scape. The guys had webbing wrapped around them, so they wouldn't lose them.

Like they would just dangle on their forearm. Firefighter proving grounds on carry some good ones. And this is not like we're not getting paid. It's just a plug, but I love those dudes and they do awesome work and the equipment is good. But but yeah and again, we can, we could spend all day, like that's a given cutters.

When we go places, it makes me feel a little better. Cause they're close to my chest and if should go south, I can re. And grab them. But you know what I think when we transcend that, when we have to go into what we carry going into, I think we have to talk about the mindset. And I think it's important that we come into work every day with that strong mindset and also acknowledge when our mindset is just not there.

And I know you've been there and I know a lot of our listeners have been there that you just wake up that morning and you're like, I am not feeling this. And you can't even pinpoint. I was talking to my buddy, Zach, out of Texas, I was working on a radio strapped for him. And he's dude, like when are you sending it?

And I'm like, homie, I'll be honest with you. I had the fucking depressive episode the last week and I have gotten nothing done. And his reaction was awesome. And he's bro, I feel that I've been. No worries. And we need to acknowledge when we wake up those days and for whatever reason, maybe shitty sleep, maybe we had a shitty call before, or I don't know.

That's just luck of the draw that morning. You're like, oh fuck. I don't feel it. Be true to yourself. Are you going to carry that throughout the shift? And maybe bring down the shift and maybe be angry and snappy and shitty with your shift, or then when you get home with your family or is it time to be like, timeout, I'm gonna take a breather.

Like I'm a bang out for 4, 8, 24 hours, however long. And just focus on something like that. That's your body telling you, Hey man, change something. So what I try to carry to go back to your question, because I like to take the very round about way to reply. It's I try to just come in with that happy.

Love for the job, even though it's every day gets harder because every day, the longer you stay in the department the shit or your things on calls. But also you realize that, and this is not a shot at my department. Any organization any fire department, anything, any organization you're a part of has things that don't run as they should.

And the more time you spend in there, the more you realize and it can be discouraging to be like, man, I'm working my ass off here and it feels like the system is letting me down. So I try to come in with that mindset of I have 24 hours and I have a firehouse and seven other people. And that is the only thing I have a little bit of control over.

The one thing that I have the most control of is my attitude going in. Maybe the recruits going to piss me off or maybe, my officer called out sick and I'm stuck with a float officer. I hate like all those things. I have zero control over, but how I react to them is, it's that stoicism, it's the control that you have on it.

Like your emotions might come to you and you have to be that almost that mountain and the emotions are clouds just going around the mountain, like the mountains, not trying to swallow up the clouds, he just goes around him. So I try to come in with that attitude. And also with that openness of I am ready for whatever the day brings and whatever happens, I'm going to learn something from it.

And I'm going to try my best to basically leave a little bit better than when I came in. And to that end, I listened to podcasts on the way into work or, trying to run a business. It's a lot of like business podcasts and marketing and things like that. But as soon as I have five, six more minutes left. I just put on music whatever, excuse me, whatever Spotify playlist I got going on, it could be, my favorite dirty heads, or maybe I'm rocking some Hollywood on dead, or I'm just going to rock up to music, be happy and show up and caring that, those good vibes, those good feelings.

Stack: And I'm going to steal, I'm going to steal a page from, a couple of favorite podcasts. And I want to know, because I think the only way to better ourselves is to be informed. So I want to know a book suggestion, 

TJ: oh man. I think Jesus, you got to hit me with that hard one.

I'm just going to give you a ton of them because, and some relate to what we do. And some don't the daily stoic. I think Ryan holiday wrote. But it's basically daily meditations based on writings from the Stoics, Seneca and Marcus, like all the heavy hitters, but it's split up by basically every month has a different meditation, but every quarter of the year is, a meditation on growth meditation on life meditation, on mortality, so on and so forth and so it's the magically set up in a way that just kinda gets your brain going that direction and go with the seasons December hits, it's fucking dark out, super early and the meditations are meditation is mortality.

One day we're going to kick the bucket and it's going to be over. It's going to be lights out. And it's important to read to me to read those meditation's into how the greats dealt with that and how they, they prepared for that inevitable darkness. So yeah, definitely like the daily stoic. It keeps you grounded.

It keeps you that. That's where I got half of the things about the feelings and the emotions from it's the control that you have over. So little, it just reminds you, Hey, you still have control of yourself. That's ultimately what you have. So daily stoic for sure. You can give me one more, just one more.

Okay. I'm going to limit you. I'll come on, dude. Like you can't 

Stack: be listening. I have to limit you on this, but one more. 

TJ: I am a fan of Sebastian Junger oh yeah. So pick one from him, be in tribe, be at freedom, be at war for us. I think tribe, because it, I think that tribalism is something that we do not have in modern day society anymore.

And I think the reason so many of us love the fire service so much is because we are a tribe. We are in that firehouse for 24 hours. And that is our tribe. Those are our people and we kill and die for them. I'm not literal. I fucking hope there's no firefighters going out there killing, but like legitimately it's the people that we would do anything for.

And some, they're not even blood-related and Junger is just good at exploring so many aspects of humanity and the way we think and the way we operate and how history plays into all of that. And it's just one of those dudes that he's so smart that he, when you're reading along, everything makes sense.

And then when you stop, you're like, oh God, I'm so dumb. I completely forgot like what all the things were. So it's it. Yeah definitely a book by any of the books by him. War is very visceral and very it's rough at times, but again, it gives you a glimpse into what people do for the tribalism and then freedom that.

I think that's more of a a growth and acceptance and just being able to, as you're walking along, because freedom, he just, he and I had a couple of buddies just walk along the railroad tracks all the way through like the Junee auto valley in Pennsylvania going as far west as they can basically Vagabonding.

And to me it just was that reminder to the way he wrote just take it all him, just look, just watch, just feel that, that sense of exploration as you go. And it doesn't mean that you're letting go of everything that has put you in that place and your trauma and your history. So yeah, anything.


Stack: All right. I think that's it. We've been going for almost an hour and a half now and I appreciate you taking your time coming down for breakfast this morning, and then sitting down and talking and bearing with me with my technical difficulties. So I think we'll wrap it up and I appreciate your time, 

TJ: man.

Of course, man. Thank you for having me here. And hopefully we do this again more off and by the way, don't 

Stack: don't think I didn't notice that you got away with three books when I said one, oh, come 

TJ: on, dude. I'm going to, I'm going to pull a fast one on you. I figured that 

Stack: out. 

TJ: All right. Thanks man. Thank you.

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