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I wish you could know what it is like to search a burning bedroom for
trapped children at 3 AM, flames rolling above your head, your palms and
knees burning as you crawl, the floor sagging under your weight as the
kitchen below you burns.
I wish you could comprehend a wife’s horror at 6 in the morning as I check
her husband of 40 years for a pulse and find none. I start CPR anyway,
hoping to bring him back, knowing intuitively it is too late, but wanting
his wife and family to know everything possible was done to try to save
I wish you knew the unique smell of burning insulation, the taste of
soot-filled mucus, the feeling of intense heat through your turnout gear,
the sound of flames crackling, the eeriness of being able to see absolutely
nothing in dense smoke-sensations that I’ve become too familiar with.
I wish you could read my mind as I respond to a building fire “Is this false
alarm or a working fire? How is the building constructed? What hazards
await me? Is anyone trapped?” Or to call, “What is wrong with the patient?
Is it minor or life-threatening? Is the caller really in distress or is he waiting for us with a 2×4 or a gun?”
I wish you could be in the emergency room as a doctor pronounces dead the
beautiful five-year old girl that I have been trying to save during the past
25 minutes, who will never go on her first date or say the words, “I love
you Mommy” again.
I wish you could know the frustration I feel in the cab of the engine,
squad, or my personal vehicle, the driver with his foot pressing down hard
on the pedal, my arm tugging again and again at the air horn chain, as you
fail to yield the right-of-way at an intersection or in traffic.When you
need us however, your first comment upon our arrival will be, “It took you
forever to get here!”
I wish you could know my thoughts as I help extricate a girl of teenage
years from the remains of her automobile. “What if this was my daughter,
sister, my girlfriend or a friend?What will her parents reaction be when
they open the door to find a police officer with hat in hand?”
I wish you could know how it feels to walk in the back door and greet my
parents and family, not having the heart to tell them that I nearly did not
come back from the last call.
I wish you could know how it feels dispatching officers, firefighters and
EMT’s out, and when we call for them and our heart drops because no one
answers back, or to hear a bone-chilling 911 call of a child or wife needing
I wish you could feel the hurt as people verbally, and sometimes physically,
abuse us or belittle what we do, or as they express their attitudes of
“It will never happen to me.”
I wish you could realize the physical, emotional and mental drain, or missed
meals, lost sleep and forgone social activities, in addition to all the tragedy my eyes have seen.
I wish you could know the brotherhood and self-satisfaction of helping save
a life, or preserving someone’s property, or being able to be there in time
of crisis, or creating order from total chaos.
I wish you could understand what it feels like to have a little boy tugging
at your arm and asking, “Is Mommy okay?” Not even being able to look in
his eyes without tears from your own and not knowing what to say.
Or to have to hold back a long time friend who watches his buddy having
CPR done on him as they take him away in the Medic Unit.
You know all along he did not have his seat belt on — a sensation that I have become too familiar with.
Unless you have lived this kind of life, you will never truly understand or
appreciate who I am, we are, or what our job really means to us… I wish
you could though.
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