I Wish You Could


By Randall Broadwater

 

I wish you could see
the sadness of a business man as his lively hood goes up in flames
or that family returning home, only to find their 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 me?
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 2×4 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 our 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 were
her parents’ reactions going to be as they open the door to find a police officer,

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 attitudes of,
“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 O.K.?” 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 buddy having rescue
breathing done on him as they take him away in the ambulance.
You knowing all along he did not have his seat belt on.

Sensations that I have become too familiar with.

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!

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