Wednesday, October 29, 2008
It was a miserable January evening, freezing rain coated everything. A thin layer of ice that complicated things that always seemed so simple. I remember riding backwards in the open cab of the firetruck, back in the days when you actually rode exposed to the elements. Feeling the misty like ice fall down.
When the truck stopped, smoke was everywhere, the weather was holding the smoke down to the ground. Holding it back from rising into the sky, blanketing the ground with smoke. Reports of a child lost in the fire, adrenaline surged through everyone bodies. Firefighters stretching their own limits, risking not seeing their own family for a child they did not know. Putting their own lives on the line, hoping to save the life of a child.
I had been a firefighter for little over a year, following my comrades lead we crawled into the structure. Hose line in hand we shuffled through the living room, stopping briefly, removing a couch to make more room. A few more feet into the home, the senior firefighter was yelling pushing us out of the home. Not understanding what was going on, we reach the deck, looking back I see flame lick through the floor. He was hollering that the floor was moving, get out of the building. He saved our lives that night!
We continued to fight the fire, efforts to find the child were suspended. We felt empty, like failures, wishing we could do more. We then used a chainsaw to create doorways into each bedroom of the ranch style home. I searched the master bedroom, I had this lump in my throat, hoping to find the child, digging through the closet. In reality I did not want to find this child, scared that I would find him dead. Finding nothing I walked around the house to the next doorway. I can't quite remember who or what was being said, I knelt down to enter the room.
Smoke filled the entrance, as my knee hit the floor, the child was in my face. Another firefighter had found his burned lifeless and blackened body.
Stunned I stood there as he brushed me aside, then in the distance I hear the curdling screams of the mother as her son was carried past her. A sound that I can vividly hear today, 15 years later. A sound that I never wish to hear again, a scream that I hope that none of you reading ever have to experience.
I sometimes can't help to think back to that mournful day. A memory that I can never erase, a sound that I can't forget.
This past month I taught over 3,000 school children fire safety, a task that I believe is one of the most important of firefighters. I have been teaching school children for the past 10 years, now curious how many children I have educated in my career to this date. Hoping that by educating children that I never have to relive another experience like that January day.
Before I end today's blog, do not thank me for teaching children, that is not why I write. I am not deserving of any accolades or pats on the back. I am curious to how many lives that I may have helped by what I have taught. Instead take my writing today and apply a moment of home fire safety to your family, so that you or someone you know is not the person screaming at the sight of their child.