While there, I listened to one of the Fire Fighters, who also works in Houston. Like most First Responders, he works two or more jobs to make ends meet. He spoke of the call he ran earlier in the week. The one where an 11 year old child was brutally stabbed to death while begging for his life. Pure evil, really. There is no other way to describe what happened to that little boy. No other way at all.
Well, I found myself back at the Firehouse later that evening. I had our conversation on my mind all damn day. We had spoke of that call, and the fact he, in particular, had made three child deaths in one Tour of Duty (a week). Three.
You see, earlier, when I was there, we had all spoken of calls past, where death itself was ever present among us. When you step off the truck or car, when your boots hit the ground, over time, you learn this…you can just feel death. You just do. When it is close to you, when you are there because of its very presence, you learn to know it. It is an unforgiving moment, each and every time.
So, I called together the same guys from earlier in the morning and told them how proud I was of them. How much, from one to another, I appreciated them and all that they did. I conveyed just how sorry I was for all we have seen and endured. A moment of sobering acknowledgement I suppose. For I have learned, quite the hard way, no one should never endure alone.
I can tell you, there are days, no matter how much hot water, soap or cleaning gel you use, the blood, dirt and grime of battles won and battles lost, just won’t wash off. The faces we’ve seen can not be unseen. The cries for life, in the very moment of death, can not be unheard. Equally, the pain, the burden we carry, can not just simply be lifted off our backs, off of our hearts. It is in fact, carried for many sleepless nights to come.
Every time the tones go off, every time the Dispatcher calls my unit number…I and others like me, pick up the mike and we answer up. We pray for the best, we hope for hope’s sake and yet, we train for and we are ultimately prepared for the absolute worst. Tragically, some days, even multiple times a day, the absolute worst is exactly what we come face to face with.
In all I have seen and done, not once have I ever considered myself a “hero” in any way shape or form. I can honestly say, I have certainly rode in a car, rode on a truck, flown in a helicopter or two with many a true and real Hero. Man look, the bottom line is this;
We just do what we do.
We are a part of something bigger than ourselves.
Note: This column appeared in our print edition May 27, 2016