i am struck today by the way we (humans) can warrior through and still retain that tenderness that makes us uniquely us… how we can fight and yet be willing to risk our lives for others.
i dropped my spawn off at her college class about an hour ago and en route home, saw smoke billowing from between two houses on my street. The neighborhood i live in has tiny houses… all nearly identical in layout… laid next to each other with just enough space between for a single driveway. It took me a moment to realize that the smoke was coming from a car rather than one of the homes and another few seconds to understand it wasn’t smoke i was seeing, exactly. i was watching the remnants of smoke being driven from the car by a fire extinguisher and those chemicals were rising into the air, and blanketing the bodies and filling the lungs of a woman and her three kids.
Spoiler alert: Everyone’s going to be just fine. This isn’t a post designed to set anyone on the edge of their seats. It’s not so much about what happened. It’s about what happened quietly next.
i pulled to the side of the road and got out as quickly as i could (didn’t grab my cane and my boot was at home). i convinced the woman and her kids who were coughing and spitting up to cross over to the other side of the street while i called 9-1-1 and then got placed on hold (that is always comforting). A man in a van came up behind us, got his passenger to park for him and ran in… he was a volunteer fireman at some point in his life. He quickly ascertained that the fire was out… noted the two (not one, but 2) empty fire extinguisher canisters nearby and all the powder… relayed info to me to tell the dispatcher and then we tried to keep everyone calm.
It wasn’t long before the firetruck arrived on scene. They were concerned about the car fire – of course – because of the proximity of houses, but they were also dealing with a slight language barrier and as they talked to the mother via her oldest son closer to the car, i stayed on the other side of the street with the two youngest. i grabbed my cane from the car and wished i had a blanket to wrap around the kids as they shivered (from shock, i suppose). The girl of about five wore jelly shoes, the boy of three or four was barefoot. The chemical dusting left them looking like powdered donuts and the young boy had a dollar-store wild-west style gun which he brandished each time he caught sight of a fireman. He did not like the firetruck. He had no use for the men who arrived in it.
When the family reunited on my side of the street, one of the firemen was instructing the teenage son and his mother about showering, rinsing out their mouths, what to look for… encouraging the mother to go to hospital for this or that if it arose. As another fireman approached the smaller children, i told him that he didn’t have a fan in the little guy.
And i watched this man – looking rough and ready – drop to one knee… talk to the boy about everything and nothing, take the cap gun, commenting on how cool it was and then hand it back to the young boy, grip first. “You be careful with this”
As my fingers slid across my phone to take a surreptitious picture of the scene, i saw the firefighter’s hat and the stickers that adorned it. He was – among other things – a Marine.
That blew me away. He blew me away. Was this the most fearful scene he had ever arrived upon? Hell no. But he didn’t know that when he answered the call. When he left the station, he didn’t know what would be waiting for him and i wondered how many times and in how many places he has donned a uniform and headed into the unknown. Yet, he was far from hard… far from cold.
He was the sweetest – most gentle – mountain of a man. Indestructible? Perhaps, but so tender when the situation called for it.
i purposely blurred the image here as the young girls’ face was clearly visible. She watched the fireman care for her little brother with rapt attention. i could have hugged that man, but i thanked him instead.
As they left in the firetruck, i thought that this little stop in their day probably seemed like no big deal to them. A relief, perhaps. But to that little boy and girl… to me… to the neighbors who gathered on porches… those guys do something pretty fucking important. When we call for help, they come.
Indestructible by Disturbed
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