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Still Making House Calls

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  • Still Making House Calls

    Here is something I found that you might be interested in reading:

    From The Bronx Times Reporter
    10/11/01

    Still making house calls
    Dear editor,


    Words seem so insignificant at this time, but sometimes words are the only things that we old-timers, we used-to-be’s, can give. For years after retiring, I visited fire houses, went to funerals, took in company parties, and other functions. I still do, as a matter of fact. Many of you younger men put us up on a pedestal because of the amount of work we did back in those crazy ‘60s and ‘70s. You felt we had seen it all, that we were some kind of supermen and that you would never see the things that we had. Some of you even thought that somehow you were living in our shadows.

    You smiled when we told you of catching a baby on a filthy south Bronx tenement floor, then cutting the umbilical cord with an old carpet knife. You howled when we told you how fast the probie tied the knot, because he thought the baby might sail around the room and fly out the window. (OK, so we embellished a bit.) But what the hell did we know about EMT training. You shook your heads when we told you of the refrigerators and garbage cans that were air mailed to us from the roofs of the 6th story tenements. You were perplexed when we described the sounds of bullets as they snapped over head and pinged off the rig or, while fighting a blaze on the top floor of a vacant, suddenly having to bail out because the ferals torched the first floor. I think it was something to do with social unrest. Your eyes glistened when we told you of our futile efforts, while trying to blow the spark of life back into the mouth of a brother down. Brothers, the work we did then, whether it was the loss of 12 at 23rd Street or the countless other horror shows, the 8,000 to 10,000 runs per year, year after year, the death, burns, injuries and psychological pounding we took, pales now.

    You are now the senior guys. You are now the old-timers. You are the generation of firefighters that have seen it all and I hope to God you never see again. We dinosaurs can’t hold a candle to you or polish your shoes. You are now the ones that we look up to, for in a heartbeat, we have become the "Johnny Humps." We now live in your shadow.

    On September 11, 2001, a slimy virus oozed out of the sands. With its fifth column working here for some time, they whacked you like you have never been whacked before. They will eventually ooze back under the sand whence they came and you will eventually bounce back, albeit beaten up, but stronger.

    Even as the horrific and unbelievable numbers of lost brothers keeps rising, there is another thing that keeps coming to this old head bone. We chose this. We studied, fought, built up our bodies, trained, watched our list numbers, endured the investigations, worried and even prayed for the chance to get on the FDNY. When finally on, we ached for the chance of proving ourselves worthy. We longed to run in, when others were running out. We yearned to meet our personal bull and to overcome the fear beast that grabs at our throats when the officer yells "It’s a 10-75." We hungered to give our all and to put ourselves in harm’s way and maybe perhaps grab a kid, pull an old couple out alive, or maybe just save their house pet.

    My thoughts now turn to those thousands that didn’t choose our way of life, or perhaps sought us out, but fell short in their quest. I think of the poor staff on the 100th floor working on his computer and hoping the boss doesn’t rag on him today. It’s still early in the week. Maybe the boss won’t rag until Friday. The pregnant woman so joyously awaiting her first born. Maybe he will be a fireman. "I have to hang on just one more day, one more week, then I can go on maternity leave. Sure could use the money." The broken English maintenance guy trying to achieve America. The guy and gal coming into the office with their coffee and bagel. The young fiancĂ© with hope in her eyes looking forward to the Saturday nuptials. "Only four more days to go. I can’t wait." The child coming to work with mommy or daddy on a take-your-kid-to-work day. The tourist and foreigners that just had to tell the folks back home how wonderful the Apple and the Twin Towers were. The security guy in the lobby, the office boy, the electrician. I have to ask: Did our blood not mingle with theirs in the dust, soot and debris of those colossal structures? Are they all not gone also? Are they not burned, broken, crushed, maimed or forever missing? Did they not leap 100 stories to escape the flames eating their flesh? Did not some hold hands as they leaped into eternity? Did they realize that their hurtling bodies would crush a firefighter coming to get them? He was our first. Our beloved chaplain giving his last rights was soon to follow. Did our blood not mix with the ESU and other cops that we so love to butt heads with? Are there not a billion tears from family, friends and neighbors? Are there not a million hearts torn out? Yet…they didn’t choose it. They didn’t strive for your special calling, but they shouldered it anyway.

    I hear countless stories of the heroism and the acts performed by the civilians. Still, you were rushing in while they were running out. You still make house calls. You still throw your minds and bodies at the red devil, day after day, night after night. Sweet Jesus, I love you all the more for it. Where does America get you from? I was troubled again when I heard a number of the new guys recently out of the Fire Academy were thinking about packing it in. I have a son that’s still a probie with less than a year on. Already I can see the hurt in his eyes from his time spent in hell. I had to ask him the other night, that being some were quitting, what were his feelings? He is only 21 and still seems to be my baby. Looking me straight in the eye and without the slightest hesitation, he responded, "Dad, I’m not going anywhere. This is my job and I love it and the guys. We don’t need those other guys." Our eye contact broke. Mine filled with tears that started to run down my face. His became steely blue. He hesitated and gazed out the window toward the Manhattan skyline. In a voice that dropped a few octaves, he slowly said, "You know what, Dad? We don’t want them either." While wiping my eyes, I suddenly realized that I’m not only an old-timer, but I must be a baby also. Nuff said.

    Jim McSwigin

    Ladder 32, Ladder 27

    Batt: 56, Fire Marshal
    Living the dream...

  • #2
    Great letter. Thanks for that post Tailboard Jockey.
    Tom

    Never Forget 9-11-2001

    Stay safe out there!

    IACOJ Member

    Comment


    • #3
      WOW
      Stay Safe!!! FTM-PTB-EGH-RFB-KTF

      Comment


      • #4
        Tailboard...thanks for posting that.
        ‎"The education of a firefighter and the continued education of a firefighter is what makes "real" firefighters. Continuous skill development is the core of progressive firefighting. We learn by doing and doing it again and again, both on the training ground and the fireground."
        Lt. Ray McCormack, FDNY

        Comment


        • #5
          Tailboard,
          Thanks.
          Shawn M. Cecula
          Firefighter
          IACOJ Division of Fire and EMS

          Comment

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