wish you could know what it is like to search
a burning bedroom for trapped children at 3
AM, flames rolling above your head, your palms
and knees burning as you crawl, the floor
sagging under your weight as the kitchen below
wish you could comprehend a wife's horror at 6
in the morning as I check her husband of 40
years for a pulse and find none. I start CPR
anyway, hoping to bring him back, knowing
intuitively it is too late. But wanting his
wife and family to know everything possible
was done to try to save his life.
wish you knew the unique smell of burning
insulation, the taste of soot-filled mucus,
the feeling of intense heat through your
turnout gear, the sound of flames crackling,
the eeriness of being able to see absolutely
nothing in dense smoke - sensations that I've
become too familiar with.
wish you could understand how it feels to go
to work in the morning after having spent most
of the night, hot and soaking wet at a
wish you could read my mind as I respond to a
building fire "Is this a false alarm or a
working fire? How is the building constructed?
What hazards await me? Is anyone trapped?" Or
to an EMS call, "What is wrong with the
patient? Is it minor or life-threatening? Is
the caller really in distress or is he waiting
for us with a 2x4 or a gun?"
wish you could be in the emergency room as a
doctor pronounces dead the beautiful five-year
old girl that I have been trying to save
during the past 25 minutes. Who will never go
on her first date or say the words, "I love
you Mommy" again.
wish you could know the frustration I feel in
the cab of the engine, squad, or my personal
vehicle, the driver with his foot pressing
down hard on the pedal, my arm tugging again
and again at the air horn chain, as you fail
to yield the right-of-way at an intersection
or in traffic. When you need us however, your
first comment upon our arrival will be, "It
took you forever to get here!"
wish you could know my thoughts as I help
extricate a girl of teenage years from the
remains of her automobile. "What if this was
my sister, my girlfriend or a friend? What
were her parents reaction going to be when
they opened the door to find a police officer
with hat in hand?"
wish you could know how it feels to walk in
the back door and greet my parents and family,
not having the heart to tell them that I
nearly did not come back from the last call.
wish you could know how it feels dispatching
an officer, fireman and EMT out and when we
call for them and our heart drops because no
one answers back or to hear a bone chilling
911 call of a child or wife needing
wish you could feel the hurt as people
verbally, and sometimes physically, abuse us
or belittle what I do, or as they express
their attitudes of "It will never happen to
wish you could realize the physical, emotional
and mental drain or missed meals, lost sleep
and forgone social activities, in addition to
all the tragedy my eyes have seen.
wish you could know the brotherhood and
self-satisfaction of helping save a life or
preserving someone's property, or being able
to therein time of crisis, or creating order
from total chaos.
wish you could understand what it feels like
to have a little boy tugging at your arm and
asking, "Is Mommy okay?" Not even being able
to look in his eyes without tears from your
own and not knowing what to say. Or to have
to hold back a long time friend who watches
his buddy having rescue breathing done on him
as they take him away in the ambulance. You
know all along he did not have his seat belt
on. A sensation that I have become too
Unless you have lived with this kind of life,
you will never truly understand or appreciate
who I am, who we are, or what our job really
means to us... I wish you could though.