Notes from a Rookie Firefighter...August 29, 2011
I am writing this from my firehouse - tucked away in a back room working because I can plug into the power since we have a generator here. I am happy that I've been able to ramp up my fire calls during my weekends and time away from NYC. Just haven't had time to blog. ;(
I am a member of the OEM and was called to duty Wednesday night in preparation for Hurricane Irene. I was on standby for the hurricane and knew it would be a dilemma if a call for fire duty came up while I was on OEM duty. As fate would have it, I didn't get called for OEM duty but at 4:20 in the morning decided to just go to the firehouse. Although there were members on station duty, I figured someone would be tired at that point from a crazy night of calls and may want to go home. I don't live close to my station and only found one point of access to the firehouse. I wasn't nervous at all driving or the thought of getting stuck--just was super-focused.
I was on fire calls from for six hours when I couldn't take it anymore. Now this is really silly - I was sitting backwards in our engine and was so car sick I couldn't even talk. At the last call I was told to just sit there and get some air. Was able to snap some pictures of the water on the roads.
I have never truly experienced what it is like being a first responder until yesterday. There was one incident that I cannot speak about but just imagine the movie "It's a Wonderful Life," where Clarence saves George Bailey. There were other calls that stayed with me deeply, escorting old people through knee deep water, seeing people with 3 feet of water in their basement, people stuck in the middle of a flooded road with their cars, down wires, sparking wires, etc.
I couldn't believe that on the way to the last call I just started to cry. I had my head out the engine's window trying to squish the feeling of having to throw up. Cried too while waiting for the guys during the last call while they cut power for someone. Just sat there and cried. My mentor happened to be the driver during that time and when we got back to the station he told me to drink alot of water which I hadn't even thought to do. With all the rain pouring down who would think of drinking water? I was upset with myself for crying though. I never hear about people crying from feeling like they are going to puke from sitting backwards in the engine.
Got home, had no power at home, but rested until I got back to the firehouse for another hour or so. Couldn't get back on the truck...but was able to help a fellow firefighter haul everything out of his basement soaked from 2 feet of water. Wish I had worn my gear.
After all is said and done, we did our job so unobtrusively it was amazing. People don't realize that the fire department doesn't only put out fires. Sure there were many of them also, but the community outreach in cooperation with the police and OEM was to be commended. I have such admiration for the dispatchers who had to deal with a situation of this magnitude.
Just had to get this big weight off my chest.
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