So, yesterday I answered my first fire call in three months. It wasn’t but the end of October I believed that I would never respond to another call again. So, as usual, I had a realization in the response, and a lesson learned.
I’ve been responding to all kinds of emergencies for the better part of 23 years as a volunteer firefighter, EMT, rescue dude, etc. I had begun to take it all for granted, and had lost sight of the very special nature by which all responders do their thing.
Yesterday, I didn’t take the putting on of my turnouts for granted. I didn’t take the sounds or the lights or the brothers in the rig for granted. It was all so freaking special, so I slowed time down as best I could.
Yes, fire trucks have a distinctive sound, a guttural growl if you will. It sounds different from the inside, as it should, as if those of us who enter the bowels of the beast are graced with a different song than the rest of mankind. Then there are the lights and sirens…and yes, they sound different on the inside, too.
Yesterday brought back a pretty cool memory. When I was a kid, my step-grandmother (whom we called “Nana”) used to burn the tall weeds that stood about 50 feet from her small brick home. When they were burned to her liking, I got to put out the fire with a garden hose. I used to love that, which reinforced my desire to, one day, put fires out in much larger arenas.
Yesterday’s call was a grass fire that was close to someone’s house, which was out before we arrived. We had to pull a line off the truck to wet down the area, and I had an instant flashback to Nana’s house and those weeds. I felt the “coolness” of working the nozzle like when I was a kid, and again the realization that this time, I was in my gear doing what few people get to do. I get to satisfy my desire to help others and to feel the rush of excitement when we answer a call.
And yes, I was a bit excited getting to work the line. I felt alive, and a bit emotional in doing something I have done countless times before. The routine no longer seemed routine, the mundane came alive in excitement.
When we got back to the station, I stayed back to help the engineer fill the tank. I wanted to do all of the things I would have left to newer members before. Hell, I even rolled the hose back up and put it in its proper place. Where is newbie when you need one? 🙂
Sometimes, it seems, the renewal of that love of living takes us back to the beginning of things. That’s where the real zest is shown, a zest that is sometimes blunted by time and experience. Yet when you almost lose something you have always felt called to do, that zest becomes razor sharp again.
I’ve realized that I have been certainly blessed in my life. I’ve love and lost, felt the enormity of suffering and the bliss of relief. I’ve experienced the excitement of a kid in something that seems so awesome become routine, and I’ve experienced a renewal and rebirth not in the dramatic need for faith, but in the real desire to LIVE.
Someone once said something to the effect that to truly live is to see each sunrise like a newborn baby, as if each one is seen for the very first time. I can tell that master nearly lost everything once, and then realized how precious each moment truly is. Even the most mundane are special, they were once very extraordinary.
So, when someone now tells me about my fire service career, “you certainly have a lot of experience” I can smile knowing they don’t know that half of it. Part of me is relieved they don’t, it took a lot of tough times to get here. Yet, part of me is wishing they did. It is that freaking awesome.