I wish you could see the sadness of a businessman as his livelihood goes up in flames, or that of a family returning home only to find their house and belongings destroyed.

I wish you could know what it is like to search a burning bedroom for trapped children, flames rolling above your head, 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 C.P.R. anyway, hoping against hope to bring him back, knowing intuitively it is too late, but wanting his wife to know that everything possible was done.

I wish you could know the unique smell of burning insulation, the taste of soot filled sweat and mucous, 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 I am all too familiar with.

I wish you could understand how it feels to go to work the morning after having spent most of a December night, cold and soaking wet at a multi-alarm fire.

I wish you could read my mind as I respond to a structure fire: "Is it a false alarm or a working fire? How is the building constructed? What hazards await us? Is anyone trapped?" Or to an E.M.S. call: "What's wrong with the patient? Is it life threatening? Is the person really in distress or is he waiting with a 2x4 or a gun?"

I wish you could be in the emergency room as the doctor pronounces dead the beautiful little four-year old girl I have tried so hard to save during the past twenty five minutes, who will never go on her first date or say "Mommy, I love you!" again.

I wish you could know the frustration I feel in the cab of the engine, foot pressing hard on the siren button, arm tugging again and again on the air horn lanyard, as you fail to yield the 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 extricate a teenage girl from the mangled remains of her automobile: "What if this were my sister? My daughter? What will her parents' reaction be when they open their front door to find a police officer standing there, hat in hand?"

I wish you could know what it feels like to walk in the back door and greet your family, not having the heart to tell them you nearly didn't come home from the alarm you were just on.

I wish you could feel my hurt as people verbally and sometimes physically abuse me or belittle what I do, or as they express their attitude of "It will never happen to me!"

I wish you could realize the physical, emotional, and mental drain of missed meals, lost sleep, missed or foregone social activities and intimate moments, 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 their in times of crisis or creating order from chaos.

Unless you have lived the life of a firefighter, you will never truly understand or appreciate who we are, or what we do, or what the job we perform really means to us.

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