I WISH YOU COULD...

 

I wish you could know how it feels to walk in the back door
to be  greeted my parents, family, or loved ones and when they
 ask how bad the car accident  was, I don't have the heart to tell
them that I  pulled a 4 year old out from under the car.
My face was the last thing she saw before she died.
 
I wish you could see the sadness of a business man as his
livelihood 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.
Is that an arm I feel?
 
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 hope 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 knew 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,
the erieness 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 to an EMS call, "What is wrong with the patient?
Is it minor or life-treating? Is the caller really in distress
or is he waiting for us with a 2x4 or a gun?"
 
I wish you could be in the emergency room as a doctor
pronounces dead the beautiful little 5 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 sitting in the pumper,
the driver with his foot pressing down hard on the gas pedal,
my arm pressing again and again at the air horn button,
as your 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 your forever to get here!"
 
I wish you could know 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 opened
the door to find a police officer, hat in hand?"
 
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 back from the last call.
 
I wish you could feel my hurt as people verbally, and sometimes
physically, abuse us or belittle what I do, or as they express
their attitudes of, "It will never happen to me."
 
I wish you could know 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, or
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 at your arm and asking, "Is my Mommy okay?"
Not even being able to look in his eyes without tears 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 know all along he did not have his seat belt on-
a sensation that I have become too familiar with.
 
I wish you could understand why it is our job is to save lives
-- as many lives as we can --
at the cost of our own lives if need be.
While there is no particular logic to the mathematics of this
and damned little glory. There is tradition and
there is honor and I wish you could understand
why that's enough for us.
 
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 mean to us.
 
But I wish you could...
 

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