Does being a firefighter have advantages? In a word, yes. First off you are cool just because, that goes without saying. Your job is fascinating, exciting, dangerous, and no two days are ever the same. Can you buy into your own press? Oh yeah! Does God help keep you in check? Yes again. Today my all time favorite memory from firefighting.
You may not know this, but when we are sleeping the lights are off, strange I know, but when we get an alarm at night the bedroom lights come on automatically. It’s like being woken up for school by my dad. Sound asleep then, bright lights and loud noise. The only thing missing is someone telling you to get up.
Through Pavlovian training you become accustomed to leaping out of bed and rushing to the BRT. Some stations you do this 4 or 5 times a night, it’s one of the reason our lives are shortened, really.
Bang! The lights flash on one morning before sun rise and we get tapped out to a structure fire. This is good news we love fires. We are advised that a local pizza restaurant is involved and a second alarm is tapped before we get there, so it is gonna be a good fire.
That’s what we call it a good fire, a job. The restaurant was housed in an old train depot, it was a cool place and I knew the owners and had eaten there many times. You could sit there eating and watch the trains go by. Across the street from the bistro was a small park and the park had been set up with a theme in keeping with the depot. Old trains were set up on display and kids could climb around on them.
We could see the header of smoke as the sky was starting to pink up. Pretty cool way to wake up if you think about it, and you are a firefighter. So we get a few assignments, interior attack and then salvage.
While inside the sun had come up and a splendid spring day was under way. My wife at the time was a firefighter as well and she was pregnant with our second child, so she was on a light duty assignment at the time. She had come down to the fire with our three year old son.
She stood across the street in the little park holding our son and watching the proceedings. My crew got a break to get fresh air tanks and a chance to hydrate. As I came out of the still smoldering structure I spotted them on the curb.
It took my son a few seconds to recognize me in all my gear, but then he saw me and just lit up with a huge smile and began waving at me. Now this is pretty heady stuff for a father, here I am in all my firefighting glory. Wearing my gear, covered in still smoldering debris, steam rising off my shoulders and my little boy getting to see it.
At that moment I really did feel like a hero. I squared my shoulders, pushed out my chest, and made a slow deliberate turn toward them. My son became even more excited and my pride was let loose. I felt sorry for all those other fathers that didn’t get to do this. Take your kid to work day at the office, poor bastards they would never know this feeling.
So like out of a Hollywood movie trailer I closed the gap between us, I could just see it. Slow motion walk from me, chaos behind as fire trucks and firefighter fought the beast. That is how I see it in my mind, and then I reached them.
My son rushed his three year old tête-à-tête.
“Dad! Dad! Dad!”
Oh I was the bomb.
“Yeah buddy.” I said chest puffed to maximum size, and then he said it, or God said it, not sure.
“Dad, did you see the trains?”
He flipped his head back over his mother’s shoulder and pointed at those stupid old trains. My pride a popped balloon, if that balloon had a gondola under it a half dozen people riding in it.
Smack right between the eyes. I managed to recover my body posture from primate back to a up right man and smiled at him.
“Pretty cool trains buddy.” I managed.
“There are two, there’s another one over there.” He pointed his tiny hand in the other direction.
“Wanna see ‘em dad?” He was wiggling in her arms now trying to get down.
“Maybe later buddy, I still gotta help put the fire out.”
“Okay.” He said. “I’ll draw you a picture of them.” She let him down and off he scampered.
Hero my ass.
See you tomorrow.