Saturday, July 24, 2010

My Heroes

Up the stairs, into the fire
I need you kiss, but love and duty called you someplace higher
Somewhere up the stairs into the fire
~ Into the Fire Bruce Springsteen

I write this as news just comes in that two Bridgeport, Connecticut firefighters have lost their lives. They work in a job they love, some paid, others not, to selflessly save the lives of others. Too often, their own lives are lost in the battle.

What hurts most is that tonight I have to go to sleep knowing my husband is putting himself in this same position. Tonight, in New York City, Connecticut, DC and you name it everywhere else, husbands are going to the firehouse, while their wives do their best to diligently not think of the danger. It's nights like these when the slightest sound wakes you up in the middle of the night, or you think you heard your phone ring. My circle of wives has already checked in with each other to make sure we are all ok - without actually asking the question.

These wives are my heroes.

Somehow we go about our days and nights knowing the selfless position our husbands put themselves in. Many of these wives are also EMTs and burn nurses. We know what can happen.

Three years ago, a fireman I knew from Engine 24 / Ladder 5 was killed along with another member from his house. I was about to be married. I could not fathom what their girlfriend and wife were experiencing. I stood at the steps of St. Patrick's and witnessed a scene I had viewed too many times: the passing of the helmet to the widow. I know how much I can love someone - the physical pain of actually loving them till you want to burst. I could not imagine the pain of not having that person their anymore to hug you, make you laugh, laugh at you when you do something stupid, or wake up next to in the morning. I could not bear to think of the emptiness they felt.

Not a huge Bruce Springsteen fan, I reluctantly purchased The Rising after it was released. I listened to it and could not believe the raw emotion that Bruce Springsteen captured. The line that grabbed me was the following: I want a kiss from your lips, I want an eye for an eye.The sadness and the anger were immediately felt - he was singing about the grieving partner following the attacks on the Trade Center. The album felt like it was a dedication of sorts to the firemen - The Rising, Into the Fire, You're Missing, all captured the selfless walk up the stairs that morning.

The wives also had a job after 9/11. Healing their husbands. It was not a short process and for many it still lingers or appears with no warning. A leaf on the street, a blue sky, a song...they can all make it come flooding back. So we also recognize our healing role. We know when they need to be alone, when they shouldn't be left alone, to not talk when they get that distant stare...we've been there for the memorials, the dedications, the 5K's and the street re-namings. It's hurts us to see them hurt so much after almost ten years. It hurts me to know that my husband lost so many friends that day.

If you watch Ladder 49, the wives really do know each other that well. It is a special bond. We know how much we need each other, and would, God forbid the horror, if it were one of us receiving the helmet. We know the quarks and the kitchen humor of our men, that they will talk to each other on the phone 10 minutes after getting home about the softball game next week.

I don't want you to think I forgot the husbands or partners of the female firefighters. I know that the women I know on the job have strong partners and husbands, and that they are always welcomed into the circle as well. Man or woman, the love of a firefighter does not stop with gender.

Tonight, I pray for the wives and their children who lost their everything. I pray for the other wives who will, for the next week, do everything humanly possible to comfort these families. God Speed Lt. Steven Velazquez and FF. Michel Baik.

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