I almost wrote my last column today. I just completed one full week at the Morris County Training Academy.

Yesterday during our afternoon drill, I choked on the 30 foot ladder. Just 4 rings to where I had to hit the 3rd story window and I just couldn't do it. I did do my 4th leg lock of the day, but I just felt the ladder was wobbly (which it wasn't) and I just said I couldn't do it. The weird thing was I didn't feel scared.

When I got in my car (we were outside about 4-1/2 hours) I was totally drenched with sweat even though I never sweat, and I just cried for an hour. I cried because I thought this is so hard physically on me between my arthritis and fibromyalgia. If you have never had either one you don't know the absolute ache I had in my bones. I was up all night the night before in pain, and I just thought I will never do it.

My Chief at the Academy knew I was upset this morning and he spoke to me for a long time. He explained how there's a job for everyone in a volunteer organization and that many people are engine people. He told me I probably had heat exhaustion. I think I did.

Today we had a test and then another drill. We did the hose lays and hydrant drill and then forcible entry. I had a hard time positioning the irons and then whack when I swung it swung back it hit me in the back. Another bruise. I was working with another Morris Township rookie named Matt, who is so kind, and I must have told him STRIKE about 2 dozen times before I pried open the door. The poor guy he said he wasn't tired but who wouldn't having to STRIKE all those times?

You know how I got that door opened? I listened, I mean really listened to my team saying "Come on you can do it." All the kids on my platoon were so encouraging. So I did it.

I cried again on the way home. But when I got home, I thought I can't quit. I just can't quit. There are too many people expecting me to quit, and too many teenagers that look up to me. And I don't mean my class, I mean my children, their friends, my CCD students in the past.

I could use all the encouragement I can get right now. I will be 47 in two weeks, and my body is so bruised right now you have no idea.

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Comment by derek on June 29, 2008 at 10:53pm
Denise,let me start by saying i am the training officer for my dept and i have trained a bunch of firefighters including 6 females.ok, with that said i want to tell you about a female that was scared to death of heights.part of her training was to climb our 75 foot ladder at a 60% angle.she would not ever attempt it a first but after talking to her to let her know she could do it,she took off up the ladder and ,ever so slowly,make it all the way to the top and even took some pictures of the cith while she was up there.i said all of that to say this,you can do it.it might be a lil scary but just look at it as if everyone on the dept can do i can too.please write in your blog after you did it and ill be so proud of you
Comment by Christopher Smith on June 28, 2008 at 3:44pm
Hi Denise,
When I went through my training for FF1 at the tender age of 45, there was a gentleman in our crew who was 68, going on 69 years old...he was one of the hardest working trainees in our crew! We also had a young woman in our group who is only 4'9" and probably weighs in at 90 pounds soaking wet...she too was as persistent and willing to take on some of the hardest tasks involved with firefighting. Between those two, I was inspired to continue on and to push harder to make it through the training.
It sounds like you have the will and the stamina to continue through the training, so don't let some small mistakes set you back. Learn from the mistakes and keep learning more, and practice, practice, practice...especially the knots! You go get 'em girl!!!
Take care and be safe out there.
Comment by josh slagel on June 27, 2008 at 10:47pm
Hey man this stuff isnt easy just keep thinking about how much you want this and what a great story this will make some day stick with it and stay confident drink lots of water if there is a will there is a way and you got the will man keep up the good work and you can add me as a friend if you want take it easy and stay safe josh.

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