Sunday, July 3, 2011

We are Not Heros

Is it just me or are others bothered by the term hero’s, I don't consider myself one and wonder why this terminology seems to be on the rise. We do a job we chose to do and train for it. May be I'm wrong but it does make me feel uncomfortable. After all, our profession according to the Department of labor is only the tenth most dangerous job. Taxi cab drivers and Pizza delivery was considered more dangerous.. I do not hear anyone calling them hero’s.

Nearly all firefighters consider their job as a vocation – a calling. We are firefighters, first and foremost, we may be sons,daughters, husbands,wives, fathers, mothers, or anything else we might be falls after that. We are extremely proud of our profession and extremely proud to be part of the “brotherhood” of firefighters. We were proud to be part of this “brotherhood” long before the towers fell on 9/11, and we remain so even during this trying time of budget cuts. People are now demonizing us. In New York, the Mayor is Closing firestaions faster than he can chew gum. So the citizens get upset with the fire department because our response time is a little long because we have more territory to cover per house. We are a close-knit family. We know what we do and what it takes to do what we do. It is the respect and acceptance of our brothers that means the most to us. Not the medals we recieve

I was a firefighter for 15 years in New York. I served in an engine company. After a good many years I became a Lieutenant. I have 9 medals of honor, 3 medals of valor. I went to the first ceromony to recieve my medal. I felt way to uncomfortable, so I never went to another one. I do not look at them, nor did I place them on my dress uniform. I was doing my job, nothing more. I loved being a fireman, I loved being inside a building to rescue someone or to just put the fire out. It is an emotino that cannot be described, but you do not feel it at the time, you feel it later. There is never a dull moment or a chance of boredom for every run (a run is a fire call) is never the same. My body has scars from head to toe, and I would not trade them for anything. I have been and seen everything from vehicle accidents, vehicle fires, structure fires, plane crashes, forest fires, assist EMS on calls, rescues. Some of the calls do not involve civilians others do, some just hurt, some trapped. One thing can be said about fire as well as the other calls, they do not discriminate. Young, middle age, elderly, people of all nationalities as well as color. They hurt you or kill you all the same.

Many friends and people tell me I am a hero and ask me all kinds of questions. I do not feel comfortable talking about what we do or see at different scenes. We firefighters talk about things we do or see (and rarely so. Usually it’s to teach a probie, show what to do or not to do in certain situations, or as a part of a debriefing) while we are in the house (fire station), but rarely do you see or hear one of us talk about it outside the house. Some of our calls make the local news or are written about in the newspapers. We are asked for interviews, but we say no a majority of the time. I know I do not consider myself a hero nor do my brothers and sisters consider themselves hero’s. We are all just doing a job well all love to do every day.

So why did I call them brothers and sisters, we are not all blood relatives. Blood relatives and spouses have a great bond that everyone can feel. But we firefighters have a strong bond as well. Just ask any of the tens of thousands of my brothers and sisters. It does not matter where they are stationed, what state they are in or what country for that matter, even in wartime. A bond that is strong, different than a strong family bond, but just as strong. For we are a part of a different family, one only we know and can feel. There are several sayings that ring true. “We are all created equal, then some became brothers”. Or my stations motto that we always preach like gospel, “We go in together, we come out together, or we do not come out at all”

Other than our armed forces, I have never seen a more patriotic group than Firefighters. We are there for all Parades even though we do not like to march. We are there for Memorila day, Fourth of July, Presidents day, Veterans day. We are there to show our respect, our love to our country, our states, our cities, our people. Just as soldiers sometimes get critisized for doing their job and protecting our country, we firefighters also take verbal abuse. But we all continue on, not hearing what they say. We show up. "A great ablity in life is showing up... and I am amazed at your ablity to show up"

“Firemen are going to get killed. When they join the department they face that fact. When a man becomes a fireman his greatest act of bravery has been accomplished. What he does after that is all in the line of work. They were not thinking of getting killed when they went where death lurked. They went there to put the fire out, and got killed. Firefighters do not regard themselves as heroes because they do what the business requires.”

-- Chief Edward F. Croker, FDNY,
speaking upon the death of a deputy chief and
four firefighters in February of 1908

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