I just turned the Big Five-0 this year in July and my wife and kids threw me the biggest and best surprise birthday party that you can imagine. I had many friends and family surprise me with some unique gifts to remind me of how old I have become. We all had some great food and it was great to catch up with some friends that I do not see as often as I would like.
I did receive one gift that when I opened it; I thought it was just another joke or gag gift to see my reaction. I received a gift certificate to go skydiving from my kids. I joked it off and moved to the next card reminding me that I was older than dirt these days. A couple of days later in talking with my kids I found it was not a gag gift but I was going skydiving. I ask about the gift and they explained that they found my Bucket List in my desk drawer and skydiving was on the list. I explained to my kids that I am getting older and I do not even remember making out that list but I was told that I was going skydiving.
As a Project Manager with Lord & Company; I have been trained to avoid risk and if I cannot avoid it then ways to mitigate risks. I have been trained to define, identify, prioritize, analyze, plan, monitor and control risks. This type of analyzing sometimes drives my wife crazy but with my background in Engineering and Project Management it just comes natural.
Now I am faced with a pivotal choice, do I back out on the challenge of skydiving or do I face my fear and do this. Of course, it took me several weeks to analyze the risk and process jumping out of a plane at 14,000 feet. I finally made the decision that I would face this fear head on and schedule the big jump. I went online at Carolina Skydiving in Chester, SC and made my reservation to jump on September 24, 2016 at 9:00 AM. Since it was my first jump, it would be a tandem jump with an experienced skydiver.
I then started asking everyone at work to join me on my jump and figured a few would be glad to join me. There ended up being no takers and my wife and kids also decided that they did not want to join me. I ask around 50 people to join me skydiving and I got many different excuses. Some of the excuses ranged from “that is not a good time for me” to “I will do it the next time excuse”.
I had a great night’s sleep before my big jump. I woke up that Saturday morning and took a shower. When I got out of the shower I started thinking; I will be jumping out of a plane in a few hours. I immediately became nervous but it was time to face the fear. I drove down to the jump site by myself, so plenty of more time to think and pray. I arrived around 8:45 AM and checked in and was asked to wait until the ground training started in a few minutes.
While I waited, I was able to watch others skydiving and it was starting to sink in. You know that big lump in your throat and that feeling in your stomach. That feeling in my stomach may have just been hunger since I only ate a protein bar that morning. It was a beautiful bright sun-shinny day but a little warmer than I anticipated when I scheduled the jump back at the 1st of August.
The ground training was simple and straight forward. It is easy to do everything that you need to do on the ground, so after signing numerous waivers (too many to count). I am all set and ready to be called and fitted for my big jump. I can honestly say the worst part for me was the waiting. Once I made the decision to jump, I just wanted to do it quickly before I backed out.
I was finally called back at around 11:00 AM by my first name (William). Anyone that knows me never calls me William, it is either Tommy or Tom but never William. Scott my instructor could see how nervous I was and immediately started joking with me and told me this was his first jump also. He ask me about which parachute I wanted to select; number 22 or number 16. I explained that I would not make that choice, he went with number 22 after messing with me for a few minutes.
Suited up but back to waiting and getting even more nervous waiting for the plane to arrive. I see my wife and daughter have arrived to see me sweat, laugh and take a few photos. In just a few minutes the plane arrived and we all boarded the small plane. There were 12 to 14 people inside of the plane packed tight with 2 pilots at the controls. I start thinking about how many end up just landing with the plane but I immediately faced the fear again and decided that I am jumping out of this plane. Glancing down at the ground at around 6,000 feet and then again around 12,000 feet. The ride up took around 15 – 20 minutes. Helmet and goggles in place ready to move toward the open door on the plane. I am asked if I want to jump first or last; I immediately answer I want to go first since I am tired of waiting.
I tried to focus on my limited training and one, two, jump. That first 5 seconds was terror and then I found myself trying to get in the free-fall position. As I get into position at 120 MPH falling to the ground, all of a sudden this is not bad and I start enjoying it but in the back of my mind I am thinking I hope that chute comes out properly. After about 60 seconds of free-fall then a sudden stop as the parachute is deployed. Then it is quiet and peaceful coming down slowly toward the ground. You can now look around and enjoy the view. I enjoyed the decent down and I was given the opportunity to guide us for a little while. After a few minutes of the peace and quiet the ground was getting closer. I was given instructions again on what to do as we get closer to the landing. Scott proved why he was the professional by the nice smooth landing.
I am not going to lie, when my feet were back on the ground it felt pretty good. I was on an adrenaline high from the jump and I felt weird to just walk around. I was glad to see my beautiful wife and daughter as they ask me how was it. I was able to overcome the fear of skydiving to experience the birthday gift of a lifetime. Sometimes we have to push through our fears and challenges in life. I have been blessed with great friends and family and I want to enjoy each and every day that God gives me in this life.
I was asked if I would try skydiving again and I immediately said yes (maybe in another 50 years). Risk is a part of our life but sometimes you just have to go for it. We must first overcome fear in our mind to picture success. “When I am afraid, I put my trust in you.” Psalm 56:3
Tom Carico – PMP
As I drive around the southeast, (NC, SC, GA, TN, VA & Washington, DC), I can tell those who are traveling with me that Lord and Company, Inc. installed that antenna on that tower or water tank you see in the distance. Or this is the place where we installed PLCs and wrote programs and created graphics to let the operators know the status is of their systems. Or it might be that we are gathering data via radio to know when to turn on pumps to fill the water tanks we are passing by on the road. It makes me feel good to know that I have friends in these places. These are people who I feel I could call on if I needed assistance in that area. There is some comfort in knowing wherever you go, you could be near someone you know.
I will never forget the experience on Tuesday morning, September 11, 2001. I was in Lockhart, SC. This was one of my first TLI projects – a small control panel with a large led display that could be turned on remotely to show the customer the amount of water in their tank. Saves the customer time now that they no longer have to unlock the gate, go in to read a value from inside the location. I was here when the World Trade Center Towers were destroyed. My daughter called to ask if I was alright, and I told her that where I was, no one would waste time bombing here because I’m in the middle of a large field. I am okay. How about you?
The historic city of New Bern, NC has memories for me as well. This project had several PLCs, SCADA and fiber optics. My first time traveling to New Bern was with Tim, one of our programmers. Tim and I were able to discuss the project and I knew he had a good grasp on what was to be done. We met the folks at New Bern, discussed our plans and they worked with us during the installation. We hired someone nearby to install the fiber optics and test the installation for us. I learned valuable information about fiber optic installations.
I pass near Lumberton, NC on my way to the beach. I did PLC work there before I worked for Lord and Company and when I was given the opportunity to replace the Square D PLCs with Modicon PLCs, I was delighted. Upon my first trip there, I was taken aback when they said this ODS panel does not work. I said if it is not working and we are going to replace it, let’s be sure we get it working like you want it to before I write the new program. On my next trip I asked what did not work. I found the outputs quickly and noted the logic when called to run the pumps was not turning on the output. There was a timer in the program that had no entry for the amount of time delay. I entered a value into the reserved location and voila. The logic showed the output was energized. But, wait, the pump still was not coming on. Let’s check the output fuse. Sure enough, it was blown. A replacement fuse was installed and this time, the ODS pumps worked. Now the fun part – reprogram what was done many years previously. Any time I am passing nearby, I call and ask, “How are you? Is there anything I can do for you?” I know the folks there really don’t need me anymore because they have very capable people running the plant. However, I still like to keep in touch.
Upon my traveling home, about half way, I pass through the small town of Salisbury, NC. Years prior, I called on these folks in a sales role for an electrical manufacturer. I was delighted when appointed to handle their account with Lord and Company. Salisbury was adding a new filtration system furnished by another integrator. The new system must run simultaneously with their existing system. They needed to be able to switch from the old system to the new system without losing data in their SCADA system. When the day of the changeover occurred, there was no clue that anything had ever changed. It was a successful merger of the two systems. I had some really smart programmers working on the SCADA portion. All I had to do was figure out what the previous systems integrator had programmed and understand their logic so I could advise our people what to expect, where to look for important data and they were well on their way to making all items appear as desired.
My family had a small trailer across the Intercoastal Waterway from Oak Island, NC. When I was assigned a project in Supply, NC within seven miles of that trailer, I felt like I was home. Previously I did some PLC work for Brunswick County. On this project Lord and Company supplied nine control panels networked via fiber optics all around their water plant. My New Bern experience helped. Our service technicians were now able to make the fiber optic terminations. Lord and Company has grown into a successful systems integrator. I have close friends in Brunswick County and when I travel to the beach, they are remembered. When hurricanes cause them problems, I call and ask how they came through. God has blessed them as so far no damage has been done to their homes or lives as a result of hurricanes.
One last place is Washington. Did I say, NC or DC? I could mention both because I have been to each with Lord and Company. I am into my 8th year doing something with the AOC. These folks are quietly demanding and understanding about the construction process. They are constantly meeting to be sure all parties are on the same page. They handle questions and provide specific answers to the questions. From the control room operators to the board room, the folks are really good to work with. The operators are willing to learn what the new controls will be doing. They know they have to run the system after we are gone and they get involved to make things work right. They don’t get in the way, mind you, they just help when asked. From coal fired boiler additions to boiler feedwater pumps to 5,000 ton air conditioning chillers all networked via fiber optics and coming to a central DCS system, Lord and Company has been there since 2007 to provide them the controls to run the pumps and equipment.
Also, in the Washington, DC area is the DC Blue Plains Enhanced Wastewater Treatment Plant. Lord and Company is working with Ulliman Schutte Construction, LLC to provide/modify control panels, add flow meters and various other instruments to provide a distributive control system at one of the largest wastewater treatment plants in the United States.
When I travel, I see places where I have had an opportunity to make a difference. It is a treat to ride down the highway knowing that you were somewhat responsible for the way that equipment operates. It gives me a warm fuzzy feeling that I was able to help someone have a better life. I have friends in these towns and there is not enough space to write about what took place at each location but it brings back memories to me – these places you will see.
Photo by James Clear
18 years ago Lord & Company did one of its first projects in the Carolinas for the City Havelock, NC. I doubt anyone with the City knows of the impact this project had on the company financially. The City had no fault in the losses. In short it was a resounding financial disaster. The profit from the project was close to (-100%). That’s right we lost as much money on the project as the original project value. You may be able to find some folks with the City who remember that we still did our best work on their project. Through the years L&C consistently strives to deliver our best work. Fast forward 18 years and another project for the City of Havelock, here is what they are saying today.
“Lord & Company and staff have done an excellent job on the water treatment plant upgrades. They worked right through any problems that arose and the system works better than it ever has. I congratulate Lord & Company on an outstanding job performed for the City of Havelock.” David Hemingway
I have been in this business for 25 years and have never seen a perfect project, but when you persevere and repeat they come out win-win. We are appreciative to our clients like the City of Havelock who have given us the chance to repeat. Thank you to Team L&C who day in and day out put in the work and persevere. You make the journey of excellence possible.