Firefighters are a Different Breed (An Ode to a Brotherhood)

Firefighter at DuskFirefighters are a different breed. They run to danger as most people run away. They leave comfort and safety to answer the call. They forget sleep to serve strangers, and they hold firm even when the strongest of foundations begin to crack. They aren’t just the men and women of your community, they are the best part of it. They live, they die, and they are remembered not just for what they do, but for what drives them to do it. They are the shining example of what can happen when tough, grizzled and hardened souls let the best parts of themselves seep out through the cracks, when an emergency reminds us all of the real purpose we serve.

Firefighters are a different breed. They are so imperfect that sometimes we forget how much we need them. They are easy targets when things don’t go right, when Murphy brings his law to bear, but they always come when called. They often go unnoticed until needed, but always are remembered in times of utmost desperation. They don’t hold you place or position in the world against you, and they will save you regardless of their own aches and pains, regardless of their limitations, regardless of who they think you are.

Firefighters are a different breed. When you hear their sirens and see their lights in your mirror, do not curse them. Instead, appreciate that sound as though it was the voice of God shouting in your ear. “Your brothers need us, and we are coming.” “Your sisters have called, and we are answering.” You do your part by safely moving out of the way, and perhaps saying a silent prayer to whomever you find peace praying to. The pass you, you go about your day, somewhere knowing that you are protected by men and women whose names you do not know.

Firefighters are a different breed. Most don’t want to die old men and women, having done what normal men and women do. They will resist the temptations of fear and will kick down your door if need be. They will stare their own demise in the face and never turn around. They will climb an infinite number of steps upward, to their destiny, not for a paycheck or fame, but because it is everything they are. When the buildings fall or the demon wins they do not regret their calling, but instead rise above the ashes as a reminder to their human family of our unique potential, of the power of that thing we call “love”, of the truth that mankind’s value is not found on a balance sheet but in our actions. They will don the threads of their mission, grab the tools of their trade, and die trying to save the very things you hold dearest.

Firefighters are a different breed. They die mostly anonymously, but heroically. Their brothers and sisters honor the flag-draped 106th Rescue Wing firefighters conduct drill weekend training [Image 10 of 13]box in which they will be laid to rest while realizing the limitless bounds of their vocation. We all cry a little in our loss, but know that the ground in which our brethren lay is hallowed ground, a bit of heaven brought here to remind us that man is so much better than he thinks he is, so much more than he may ever realize. When the crowd has dispersed and the piper has played his Amazing Grace, we go back to being who we are, brothers and sisters in battle, lovers of people, fearless warriors of a truth sometimes forgotten.

Yes, firefighters are a different breed. They aren’t heroes or special, they are just reminders of a something that resides in all of us, a piece of us living in someone else, an idea that will never die as long as mankind survives. They are the front line between what we fear and what we hold most dear, and they are the epitome of a helping hand. They remind us all of something we have inside us, of something we can all aspire to. That imperfect arm reaching through the smoke. Those steeled eyes glaring through the flames. That determined mind working to save you from the wreckage. So whether those things are literal or a metaphor, we all see ourselves when we gaze upon the sweaty, blackened, sooty face of a person we’ve never met, and may never see again.


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