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Jewish World Review Sept. 17, 2001 / 28 Elul 5761

Dayle A. Shockley

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Genuine heroes -- I STILL recall the frivolous remarks from friends when I told them I was marrying a firefighter. Some assured me that all firefighters did was sprawl around the firehouse, waiting for their next meal. Others called firefighting a "gravy job." Not much to do, they said, laughing, except eat, sleep and wait for the next grass fire.

From all of the comments offered, I gathered that firefighting was just no big deal. So I laughed with them. Ha-ha! I mean, what did I know about firefighting?

But that was more than 20 years ago. Today, I fully understand the tasks, the risks and the toils of the business. I know what it means to get that call in the pre-dawn hours saying, "Your husband has been seriously injured." The fact that I could be the next widow is something of which I am always aware.

Seeing the fire personnel of New York City in action during the past few days confirmed to me, once again, that there is no other job quite like that of a firefighter - and just how much our nation depends upon their expertise during times of crisis.

While others run away from danger, firefighters run toward it. They react to life's tragedies and catastrophes, to acts of God, to acts of terror and to human wretchedness. With hands of steel, they battle devastation and destruction. With hands of compassion, they comfort victims along the way. It isn't an easy task, but it is what they do.

Many mornings, my husband trudges in the back door, haggard, bleary-eyed and smelling like a smokestack. What has he been doing for the past 24 hours? Just doing his job. And while his careworn appearance might not appeal to most women, he looks wonderful to me - simply because he made it home.

"How can you deal with all the agony?" I asked him one evening, after hearing yet another heart-wrenching story of death and loss. "You just do all you can to help," he said. "And you take comfort in that fact. You don't really have time to think about the circumstances. You just do what has to be done."

As the nation mourns the great loss of life in New York, I continue to mope around the house, an ache in my heart and a lump in my throat. And I suspect it will be that way for some time to come. Firefighters are a close-knit group. They are like brothers and sisters. When one dies, no matter the locality, they all grieve. They understand how easily it might have been them.

And while firefighters may not make the national news on a daily basis, they always are on the job. Twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year, firefighters are at work for the American people.

All of them are genuine heroes - men and women who go the distance every day they show up for work, willing to lay their lives on the line for the young, the old, the rich and the poor. That is what it really means to be a firefighter. Only the brave need apply.

JWR contributing columnist Dayle Allen Shockley is a Texas-based author. To comment on this column, please click here.

08/24/01: Mad and doing something about it!
08/10/01: My daughter was not aborted
07/30/01: The surrendered parent
07/06/01: Beauty can be a disguise


© 2001, Dayle Allen Shockley