A few of you know that I am involved in the world of Emergency Medicine, and as a matter of course I interact with other medics, with police officers, and with firefighters. As 9/11 nears, I would like to take a moment each week to recognize these three forces--the Red, the White, and the Blue--which are so integral and important in my life.
When I turned 16 I joined my city fire department as a junior volunteer. I still haven't been cleared to go inside burning structures, but I do what I can when I am in town. As I have gone to weekly meetings, the occasional call, and having seen them at work, I am struck by the dedication and professionalism shown by the firefighters of my town, and am proud that we are not alone among fire departments in our demeanor and deportment. It is almost a cultural stereotype that children look up to firefighters, but it is more than reasonable that they should.
These men who go forth in Red are intelligent and knowledgeable about their craft. From maintaining their equipment to planning fire attacks, there are meticulous details to firefighting that many people don't think about. Most people just think you "put the wet stuff on the red stuff," but how you go about it is very much dependent on what is burning, how it came to burn, and how big the blaze is. They must manage the fire, prevent it from spreading, and coordinate with each other and other fire companies in conditions that simply are not friendly to human life. The air could be clear and it could take five minutes to get in and out, or you could be totally blind in toxic smoke on your hands and knees for as long as your air pack will let you and be far from done with the fire.
The men and women who fight fire, saving our lives and (when possible) our homes, are heroes, period. I ask that you join me in a brief moment of silent respect for the men and women of the Red: from those who died of old age after years of service, to those who fell fighting their first fires, to the 341 firefighters who lost their lives in the September 11 attacks.
We honor the fallen, we remember their names.