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Firefighter Origins

Firefighter Origins

Photo Courtesy of Creative Commons

Ethan Vizitei

I idly wondered if my brother might be one of the rescue workers who would come work this scene as I pulled over to survey the place where the vehicle had come to rest. Realizing that no one else had probably seen the accident, I started scrambling down the steep hill using one hand for balance while trying to dial 911 with the other. As I reached the mangled vehicle and rounded the passenger side window, I stopped short. My voice, which had just been talking to the dispatcher, gave out in mid-sentence. I saw something there that has been burned in my memory ever since. The driver, a middle-aged woman, half-ejected from the van through the passenger window, arms and head drooping down the side of the car and blood running down her arms and dripping off her fingertips into the grass. I froze.

My brother is a firefighter. And he would have known what to do.

I just stood there and stared blankly. A friend of mine had seen my car parked by the side of the road and came down after me. Neither of us could do a damn thing. I just stared, as this helpless person bled in front of me, and listened as the sirens grew closer bringing with them people who might actually make a difference. When the emergency workers arrived, they pushed me aside and started bandaging wounds and splinting breaks, and one of them led us back up to the side of the road to take our witness reports. Afterward, driving home in my car, I remember cursing my inadequacy. Why couldn’t I have helped? Why couldn’t I have been someone who had the training and the experience to know what to do for an injured stranger in a position like that? Instead I was just me, Joe software developer, totally unprepared and feeling helpless in the face of a real emergency. I felt useless.

My brother is a firefighter.

And suddenly his choices don’t seem so strange anymore. Where I’m helpless, he’s ready. Where I’m useless, he’s experienced and well-trained. When someone truly needs help and their life depends on it, I have nothing to offer; but he’s ready to help and willing to risk his life to do so. Everything looks upside down when I start looking at it in a new light. I don’t know what to do next or how to help myself. One thing I do know is that I never want to feel that helpless again.

My brother is a firefighter.

He doesn’t do it for money, even in a paid department there isn’t a lot there. He doesn’t do it for fame, because you won’t find any in the trenches. He does it because the skills he has been given in that capacity empower him to help people every time he jumps on that truck and drives out to a call. When circumstances in a person’s life have brought about a situation that is out of control and dangerous, he can step in and steer it towards a good resolution, and that is more rewarding than anything you’ll find behind a desk.

My brother is a firefighter.  And I will be one too.