The best of times, the worst of times. Being a volunteer firefighter is the best thing and the worst thing a person can do. I love the time spent with the brothers and sisters in the service with me. I love the time spent educating kids and families on how to stay safe and what to do in case of a fire. I love seeing the smile on a kids face when we drive by, lights and sirens on. Doesn't matter if it is a call or in a parade, all kids love fire trucks. Doubt that? Ask your kid if they want to go to the firehouse and sit in a truck. Watch their expression, and tell me they don't simply BEAM. But there is a bad side to this too, one we don't share with the public too often. We'll share it with our house and other houses, but the stories will be edited, and not as bad as they were in real life. We never tell the details of watching people die. We never say how hard it is to save someone who is pinned in their car, drunk as a skunk, after they creamed an innocent person who was minding their own business. We never talk about how hard it is to do CPR on a person, knowing it is too late already, and we are simply going through the motions for the family. We never talk about the calls where kids are hurt, and we can't do anything to help them. We never tell of the times we spend trying to remove the body of a person from a car wreck.
All the people who think the job is just putting "wet stuff on the red stuff", they have no idea of how much more the job is. They don't know the mental side of serving the public. There is a whole aspect that we don't mention to the general public, and we sugarcoat to each other. It is the aspect of PTSD that we ignore, and try to keep stuff bottled in.
The worst accident I was at in my years of service happened in December 2000. I can draw you a picture tomorrow of how the scene was. An innocent woman was killed by a drunk driver. He died too. But what is eating me now is the fact that 15 minutes before the accident, I was walking out of a supermarket, and saw the drunk walking in. He was a total asshole, yelling obnoxiously, cursing loudly, and his friend that was with him was just as big an asshole. I thought to myself "God, those guys are assholes!" as I walked to my car. I drove home (literally a 6 minute drive after sitting at two lights)and was carrying my bags to my apartment when the page came out. VEHICLE RESCUE/Severe Entrapment. Now normally, civilians who call 911 report a vehicle accident with injuries, then the cops get on scene and report a possible entrapment, then an officer gets on scene and confirms a rescue. Not this time. There were over 20 civilian calls calling it a rescue. Not a good sign. We normally got called to clean up accidents like fender benders and the type. We literally passed 9 rear endings on the way to this scene. Another bad sign. The accident was horrible. The truck the drunk was driving flipped over and crushed him and killed him. The innocent driver was seat-belted in her car, but the impact was so severe, the dashboard came up and hit her in the face, crushing her. His truck flipped after hitting her. It flipped so fast that the groceries that were in the bed of the truck were under the bed of the truck, instead of flung all over. They were held in place by centripetal force. That is how fast he was going. I won't get into the details. After accidents like that, we try to find out details of how the pt made out after ward. Turns out, she had an 11 year old son, who's birthday was 4 days after the accident. The accident was 2 weeks before Christmas. She was just proposed to by her boyfriend just two weeks prior to the accident. She was on life support for 3 days after it, and they pulled the plug so she wouldn't die on her son's birthday.
We never tell the public of how tough the scene is to us on nights like that. We never tell of finding her shoes on the floorboard, filled with blood. We never tell about seeing the panicked look on the medic's face as she tell you that the victim needs to be out of the car and on the helicopter 15 minutes ago. We never tell how later that night we sit on the floor of the kitchen in the slop of melted food I never got to put away, crying and not understanding why this happened. We never tell how it is so difficult to think I might have made a difference had I called the cops over the drunk at the store. We never talk about how, even now, I could tell you the details of her outfit, her car, the truck, the dead drunk, the sound of the helicopters coming and going, the sound of the drunk friend who got partially ejected crying out. We never tell how we stood around trying to crack jokes while the drunk lied dead on the street, trying to hide our real feelings. We never mention this stuff to the public... Until Now.