When I grow up, I want to be a firefighter. I want to ride on the big red truck. I want to fly through the town, lights flashing, horn blaring, saving the day at every turn. I want to be the hometown hero. I’m gonna wave at all the pretty girls and shake all the hottest hands. Everyone is gonna know my name when I’m on that truck. Daydreaming of the day when I grow up.
Growing up happens quick, like the flashover I’m trained to fear in my new job. I’m on the big red truck. The lights flash and the horn echoes through the city square. I still wave at all the pretty girls and shake every extended hand. But I’m learning every day that the relationships this job builds are the important ones. The elderly couple two blocks away that call 911 at least 3 times a week begin to ask me how my weekend was. I know where to find the key to their house when one is bed ridden and the other falls down and can’t get to the door. The special needs camp every year is now something I mark on my calendar. “Another 2:00am med call to apartment L5” I grumble as I climb on the rig, but I uphold my oath and treat their emergency with as much compassion as I can muster. I guess it’s all a part of growing up.
In not so many years, transfers and terminations have rocketed me up the seniority list and made me a “grown up” compared to the 18 year old babyface we just hired to replace the 30 year Lieutenant that retired. The crew I was once “just a member of”, I now consider “mine”. I input my opinions and help influence the things we do as a team. Those same sirens still blare and that same horn still blasts the mortar from between the bricks of our square. The “pretty girls” I wave at are my wife and niece as I tell them bye from another dinner cut short by emergency tones and climb onto the big red truck. “I can’t believe Mr. J from apartment L5 passed away” I say when I read his obituary in the local newspaper a few weeks after we life-flighted him to Atlanta for a still unknown cause medical emergency. Another unexpectant “relationship” cut short by unexpected death. Tonight, as we all crawl back into bed with aching joints and tired feet after spending 5 hours at an apartment fire while the rest of the city sleeps, I’ll wonder how I got so old so quick. I’ll daydream of when I was young and careless. But I’ll thank God for keeping us safe and drift off to sleep until the next call. All grown up.