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Firefighter's Words

“I can only hope that someone will remember me in the same way….”

It’s amazing that after 20 plus years in the fire service I can still think and function on a daily basis. My mind has chosen to fill itself with the most horrific things that I have seen over the years, yet I can’t remember what I got for presents last Christmas.

I still remember my first fatality like it was yesterday. It was a lawyer who fell asleep at the wheel and ran into the back of an 18- wheeler that was parked on the side of the road. His head was split right down the center and was DOA. I was assigned to the hoseline crew while they extricated him. I was positioned right next to the driver side door and I remember my chief coming up to me and grabbing a little lock of hair that was sticking out from under my hood. He yelled at me and said, “Do you want this burned off?!” and told me that if he ever saw it again he was going to cut it off. He was a hard ass but a great chief and he never saw a single piece of hair ever stick out again.

Then there was my first fire which was a car fire and I was so excited. My adrenaline was going so hard that my feet wouldn’t stop shaking. They let me have the nozzle and I felt like I had won the lottery. Then after the fire was out, I went to take my pack off and put it back in the engine. I put my helmet and gloves down inside and went to climb up inside. My hand was hanging onto to the inside of the door frame when a car went by and the air from them passing by caused the door to shut on my hand just as I was turning around to see it catching my hand at the same time I went to pull it away. My finger got caught and I opened the door up and turned back in towards the engine to see the top of my finger had been ripped off and blood was everywhere. I walked over and said I think I need a band aid and was about to pass out. My chief grabbed my hand and held it up as they wrapped up my hand and he took me to the hospital and stayed with me while they worked on me.

There were the burn victims that were killed and the place set fire to cover the crime – a body laying on a tarp oozing while waiting on the coroners to pick her up, and the ants covering her.

There are so many calls that have been fatalities and I remember the faces of every one of them. There are the terrible drunk driver calls- one that killed the grandparents and grandson in one car and a baby in another. A drunk driver and friend who get into the vehicle for the last time and the driver gets out and leaves the friend in the car dying, drowning in his own blood. And the ones whose vehicles run off the road and flip and a severed head goes out the window and is flat as a pancake with brain matter and chunks of skull everywhere. You have drivers that don’t pay attention and cross the center line and hit a motorcycle rider coming the other way and drag it under their vehicle for an extended ride before stopping to find a mangled bike and body under their vehicle and having to backtrack the point of impact and pick up chunks of the body left behind.

Then there are the freak accidents on a road that you travel daily and think that it could have been you. An 18 wheeler lost his load on one of those roads and was carrying a large 10 ft piece of steel as a SUV rounded the corner. The steel landed on the hood, went through the drivers front window and traveled through the rest of the SUV, cutting the drivers arm off and catching her in the face also. She was dead on arrival and her husband was in the passenger seat unharmed physically.

There are to many to list them all but I have them all stored in the grey matter up top till the day I die. I remember these calls quite frequently and the victim’s faces. The older I get, the more carnage I see. It used to be that nothing bothered me, but the years of all of these memory burdens are taking their toll. I try to deal with all these horrific memories by telling myself that as long as they are in my memory, they are still living on, especially for those that don’t have anyone to remember them or their death was to painful for them to remember them. I am sad to know that there will be so many more terrible memories to be added before the day I die. When that time comes I can only hope that someone will remember me in the same way….