“We are all a part of everything. The future, present and the past.”
– Charlie Daniels, Song Writer, Artist, Singer
When you drive through the Florida Keys you ride through endless miles of lush island scenery. Somehow it exceeds even your greatest imaginings as to what a tropical paradise might be. There is nothing manmade that can even begin to compare to the beauty you witness as the road unfolds before you.
Sometimes it is so overwhelming it begins to actually dull your senses and you start to lose track of what you are seeing. It is truly a type of culture shock and you need to remind yourself that many people would give anything to be there and experience what you are feeling.
Most are not familiar with much of the history of the keys. Inhabited by Native Americans from around 12,000 years ago and then exposed to the landings of European explorers; right on through the days of the Spanish Main, coastal pirates, hurricanes, treasure hunters and refugees, the keys represent a rich depth of history, antiquity and continuity.
As you pass into the lower third of the Keys and exit Marathon you cross the seemingly endless seven mile bridge. Passing over Ohio Key next and prior to greeting Spanish Harbor, you pass by Bahia Honda State Park. This is located at Bahia Honda Key. As spectacular as the scenery there could possibly be, there is another item there that is man made and as you cross the rise over the entry bridge it takes your breath away.
Spanning the bay to the east between the islands stretch ancient steel trestles stapled together by continuous concrete piers gripping coral rock under the azure sea. Running down the spine of these girders are the remnants of the rails and ties which once sped rail passengers to their Key West destiny. These bridges were a significant part of the primary base of the overseas highway. They constituted the foundation of the original railroad that Henry Flagler built in the 1920’s. Having now been abandoned in favor of modern highway bridges, they still stand in mute tribute to the engineering ingenuity of those pioneers who did the job of impossible marine railroading.
If you look long enough at this scene you can almost imagine a Baldwin 4-6-2 locomotive huffing and puffing billows of smoke and as it hugs the rails. You would love to hear the distant wail of a steam whistle broadcasting its arrival at the next cargo drop. Even though those days are long past, it brings to mind the reality of continuity. This past is integrally intertwined with the present as these designs, bridges and roads all contribute to the evolution of our travel. As Charlie Daniels aptly sums up in his song “The future, present and the past” all make the present day possible.
As I continued my journey to Key West I thought about this same theme in relation to our industry. All that we enjoy today and build upon for tomorrow is only made possible by those who have gone before. The purpose of my trip in this vacation paradise was unfortunately business and not pleasure. Key West has the same problems as the rest of Florida’s municipalities; too little resources and too many problems. To their credit they are working solidly with a plan to solve these issues.
One of these plans is to rework their alarm ordinance. As a part of the AAF statewide program in assisting these municipalities we are working with the Security Industry Alarm Coalition and through the Florida Police Chiefs Association to educate and implement modern solutions to some ancient problems. Much like the aforementioned highway, we are ever adapting and building upon what has gone before and is successful. We know what works as an industry. The municipalities in question need our help and assistance. We are working our way around the state one municipality at a time, but with an organizational approach that divides the state into 17 districts, matching the geographical areas of the FPCA.
Leaving Key West after a successful meeting with their public safety officials it occurred to me I may actually have some job security; only 474 more municipalities to go.
Alarm Association of Florida