A Firefighter's Wish

I wish you could see
The sadness of a business man as his livelihood goes up in flames or that family returning home, only to find there house and belongings damaged or destroyed.

I wish you could know
What it is to search a burning bedroom for trapped children, flames rolling above your head, your palms and knees burning as you crawl, the floor sagging under your weight as the kitchen beneath you burns

I wish you could comprehend
A wife’s horror at 3 A.M. as I check her husband of forty years for a pulse and find none. I Start CPR anyway, hoping against the odds to bring him back, knowing intuitively it is too late, but wanting his wife and family to know everything possible was done

I wish you could know
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, and the eeriness of being able to see absolutely nothing in dense smoke, sensations that I have become too familiar with.

I 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 multiple alarm fire.

I wish you could read
My mind as I respond to a building fire, “Is this a false alarm or a working, breathing fire? How is the building constructed? What hazards await? Is anyone trapped or are they all out? 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?

I wish you could be
In the emergency room as the doctor pronounces dead the beautiful little five-year old girl that I have been trying to save during the past twenty-five minutes, who will never go on her first date or say the words, “I love you Mommy,” again.

I wish you could know
The frustration I feel in the cab of the engine, 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 right-of-way at an intersection or in traffic. When you need us, however, your first comment upon arrival will be, “It took you forever to get here!”

I wish you could read
My thoughts as I help extricate a girl of teenage years from the mangled remains of her automobile. “What if this were my sister, my girlfriend, or a friend?! What are her parents’ reactions going to be as they open the door to find a police officer there?

I 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 home from this last call.

I wish you could feel
My hurt as people verbally, and sometimes physically, abuse us or belittle what we do, or as they express their belief that, “It will never happen to me.”

I wish you could realize
The physical, emotional, and mental drain of missed meals, lost sleep, and forgone social activities, in addition to all the tragedy my eyes have viewed.

I wish you could know
The brotherhood and self-satisfaction of helping save a life or preserving someone’s property; of being there in times of crisis, or creating order from total chaos.

I wish you could understand 
What it feels like to have a little boy tugging on your arm and asking, “Is my Mommy okay?” Not even being able to look in his eyes without tears falling from your own and not knowing what to say. Or to have to hold back a long-time friend who watches his friend having rescue breathing done on him as they take him away in the ambulance, knowing all along he did not have his seatbelt on

Unless you have lived
This kind of life, you will never truly understand or appreciate who I am, what we are, or what our job really means to us.

I wish you could!