Saturday, October 16, 2010

This part of the job sucks!

My shift at the firehouse begins at 0700, usually arriving at 0630, a common courtesy that most fire fighter's honor. By arriving early it ensures that the off going shift gets off on time, letting them return home, some to head off to other jobs, others to get the kids off to school. This morning I had arrived early as usual, placing my gear onto the engine.

Grabbing a cup of coffee I headed to the apparatus floor, the morning ritual between the two shifts, sharing stories and concerns, camaraderie at its best. With laughter and jokes filling the air, I watch and listen, making sure that my crews spirits are high. Many upper management positions are always concerned about the lack of production, my concern is that my crew has its head in the game for the day ahead.

The laughter and talk was stopped by alarm in the station, 6:53am, 46 year old, unconscious and cold to the touch, our district. The address sounded familiar, many guesses were made that it was one of our regulars, a diabetic that we continuously respond too, I saw the name on the computer screen, it was name that I remembered from years ago.

Years ago I had responded to this home, domestic dispute, if you want to call it that. Although I think attempted murder is a much better classification. Knowing the former perpetrator should be out of jail soon, I couldn't help but wonder, if this time they were able complete their previous task. My mind was racing with the what ifs, never quite knowing what were walking into.

Our station is next to a busy intersection, white lines are striped in front, leaving our driveway clear. A typical morning and traffic was backed up, you can see people look as our garage doors open, wondering if we are leaving. As the doors raise it as if we are unveiling the trucks, lights flashing, all of us seat belted in. We slowly exit the station, allowing time for cars to move, a slight touch of the siren, announcing our presence we depart our home.

The address we were going too was only a few blocks away, less than two minutes. Cars pulling to the right, stopping, getting our of our way, as we pass the horns and sirens wailing through the morning air. As quickly as we got up to speed, we had to slow to make our turn. Kids at bus stops waving, wondering where we were going, curious to our call.

A few more blocks and we were there, a boy stood in the yard, jumping up and down, a scared and worried look on his face. I instantly knew this wasn't going to be good, my driver brought our engine to a halt. The ambulance directly behind us, parked near our bumper, my crew joined the ambulance, grabbing equipment to bring into the residence.

As the officer, I walked toward the boy, leading me into the home, mumbling hysterically. I could of swore he said, I think he might be dead, I was hoping that he didn't say that. As I walked through the door, I knew the boy knew his father was dead, hoping that we could do something to fix him. Looking at my crew, they knew my look, they surrounded the patient. I quickly gathered the boy and his grandmother, taking them into the kitchen, out of sight.

I began getting information, knowing that this was not a good situation, doing everything in my power to keep this boy from being next to his father. Besides himself, he could not contain his energy, rightfully so. I already knew that I was going to have to tell this family that their loved one was gone and there was nothing we could do.

As I kept the family detained, I began to ache, this boy was all of 11 or 12. Only a couple years older than mine, this call was beginning to hit home. Watching this boy scream and cry, then with a flip of a switch, helpful with information and so grown up. It was a roller coaster of emotions this boy was experiencing, I could see his pain, I could see he was scared, I knew he was now fatherless.

Trying to make conversation, I asked if he had sisters, he informed me that he did, but they chose to live with his mother who is now out of jail. "She didn't want me" he said, followed by "That's a good thing though." I could see he was at peace with that, but it did bother him as well, now tears were down his face again. Pacing and scared, crying then screaming, his grandmother now hugging him, pulls him closer to the recliner. She grabs a blanket and offers to snuggle him, now he is on her lap.

He can barely sit still, now worried that he is going to miss school. Telling me that he loves going to school, worrying that he will be in trouble for missing today. I explained to him that today he could miss school, today you need to be with grandma. My eyes are beginning to tear, I desperately trying to hold my composure, it was not working. I then explained that I was going into the other room to check on things.

As I walked through the hallway, I could see the guys had already covered the body. They were talking to the hospital on the phone, confirming the mans death. A standard procedure that we must do. I could see the guys were taxed by the situation, knowing that I was dealing with the worst. I looked at them, turned around and went back to the boy and his grandmother.

As I entered the room, the boy looked at me hopefully, I don't even remember what he was saying. His mouth moving, the words I was not hearing, all I heard was "Are you taking him to the hospital?" I got down on one knee, right in front of him and his grandmother. Without hesitation, I knew what must be done.

So this is what I said " The firefighters put him on the heart monitor, his heart is not moving, he is not alive anymore, there is nothing that we can do to help him!" Listening to my every word, hoping that I would say something different. Tears were now flowing from my eyes. Suddenly the boy was screaming NOOOOOOOOOOOO.......Then he was climbing off of his grandmother. Like an animal out of a cage, dancing in place, I opened my arms and offered a hug. The boy jumped into my arms for the embrace.

I want to see my dad, can I see my dad, he was asking. Of course I replied, so together we headed back down the hallway. The guys looked horrified that they were now going to have to watch this boy, all wondering what he was going to do. I told the guys to pull the sheet down for this boy, exposing his fathers face. I could see he was unsure what to do.

Then he lowered himself next to his dad, "Dad, we are praying for you, were praying for you dad, dad were praying for you" He kept repeating this several times, unsure how many times he said it. My eyes were teared up, such a horrible thing this boy was experiencing. I then interrupted him, telling him it was OK to kiss his dad if he wanted. So gingerly he leaned over, kissing his dad on the cheek. "I love you dad" he said one more time. With the kiss he walked back to his grandmothers arms, she pulled him in close.

They returned to the other room, the police called for the corner, our job was done. Knowing the police were doing their job, a standard death investigation. Pictures, statements, their normal routine. My concern was for the welfare of the kid, I suggest that they contact social services, and the officer agreed. So I returned to the room, the boy crying on his grandmas lap. Feeling horrible, I also felt the need to keep them informed. I explained to them that our job was done, we were going to leave, the police were going to stay. The coroner would come and they would decide what the next step would be.

The boy stopped crying, you are not taking him the hospital? He asked again, no I said, there is nothing that we can do. Then I explained everything to him again, nodding as if he understood. Wiping the tears from his face, he climbed off of his grandmas lap one more time. Standing in front of me, we hugged one more time, as we ended our hug, he reached out with his right hand, shaking mine, thanking me for everything we did.

My heart dropped, this young man had lost his father and now, he was thanking me for something that I couldn't do. I was amazed at this young mans strength. I explained that I was leaving, I was sorry for their loss. I turned, walking down the hallway, past the father, acknowledging the officers, then out through the door.

As I climbed back into the engine, the guys were silent. They knew I was hurting too, my engineer turned to me, waiting for me to make eye contact, finally I looked. My eyes were welled up with tears again, "Thanks, for doing the tough part" that's all he said, releasing the air brake, we headed back to the station. All you could hear was the moaning of the diesel engine, finding our way back home.


  1. Made me mist up just reading it..
    Can't imagine actually living it..

  2. wow. you actually have me all misty.

    don't know how you can think the job is easy having to do stuff like that

  3. I remember having to give my first notification...apparently it doesn't get any easier...WOW that brought back memories...I hope the day didn't get any worse!

  4. I don't remember when I read a blog post that actually brought tears to my eyes. Quite a story, and well told. You did good that day.