In the EMS and Fire Service, we see things that would ruin anyone else's week. Sometimes we don't see things because God doesn't put us on every scene that our brothers and sisters are on, and sometimes those calls are just as bad as the calls we do replay in our minds. Listening to the familiar voices on the radio at the scene of an especially bad MVA. Hearing the requests for additional resources. Hearing the request for the coroner, knowing that your brothers and sisters are dealing with something that will likely haunt them for a long while after clearing, can reek havoc on the heart of the responder who wasn't able to be there fighting to put out fires, extricate victims from crushed cars, and save the lives of the people who moments before were going about their day with no idea that life as they know it was about to end.
You go to the CISM's. You hug your family members and let them lean on you. If you're anything like me, you cry right with them as they recall what they've been through. Your heart breaks thinking of the victims. Thoughts cross your mind that knock the wind out of you. Yesterday at this time, that person was getting ready for bed and kissing their spouse goodnight with no idea that it would be the last time. On scene or off scene, you hear the sirens. Your adrenaline races. If you're not on the scene, you are so damn frustrated because at that moment, there is nowhere else on earth you want to be. It's the calling. It's the wiring inside of you that draws you to emergencies to try to make sense of madness. To try to untangle knots that took seconds to form. It doesn't hit you right away. Suddenly you find yourself annoyed because the world still turns as though nothing has happened. As though a life was not lost. As though a part of your heart wasn't left on that interstate. You listen to people continue to complain about trivial things. You watch people fight and say hurtful things as though they have absolutely no idea that their time could be up tomorrow, and the hurtful words from their lips will stay here after they have gone. You scold yourself for being morbid, but then you realize with sadness that it's not morbid. It's reality. You face your own mortality. You see the people you love with a new appreciation. You find yourself more patient in the slow moving line at the grocery store because you realize that it's a gift to be standing there in the first place. You hug your kids a little tighter. You thank God for what you have with a little more sincerity and a tenderness in your heart that can only be put there by being in this field. You ask yourself if you're cut out for this after all. You know deep down you are. You know you could never turn in your gear and your LED dash light and sleep okay at night knowing your hands have been trained to save a life. To put out a fire. To take apart a crushed vehicle. The hands you use every single day are trained to do these great things. They are strong enough to pick up people who have fallen down metaphorically or literally, and they are soft and gentle enough to bring comfort to someone who is scared and sick. You are cut out for this. If you weren't, you would have lost the pager long ago. If you weren't cut out for this, you wouldn't question it. You would just know. You're here for a reason. You're here because you care. You're here because helping your neighbor is in your blood. You're here because when you hear sirens, whether the call involves saving a life or simply easing someone's trouble, there's nowhere else you would be. You're the face that calms the frightened. The voice that quiets the frantic. The presence that makes it okay in the world of someone who is anything but okay when you meet them.
Accept it. Be it. Don't let it make you hard. Don't let it steal that fire that burns inside of you that no one can put out without your permission. Go fight that fire. Go save that life. Remember the calls that made you feel the heaviness but don't let them suffocate you. Feel your emotions. Let them come as they will. Turn the pager off while you sort it out and make yourself okay, but don't turn your back on it when you're called. Don't let the madness of it eat you alive. Remember that the world keeps turning, and people keep needing you. Take care of yourself. Take care of each other.
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