I Wish You Could

I wish you could see
the sadness of a business man
as his livelihood goes up in flames or
that family returning home,
only to find their house and belongings damaged or destroyed.
I wish you could know
what it is to search a burning bedroom for trapped children,
flames rolling above your head, your palms and knees burning as you crawl,
the floor sagging under your weight as the kitchen beneath you burns.
I wish you could comprehend
a wife’s horror at 3 A.M.
as I check her husband of forty years for a pulse and find none.
I start CPR anyway, hoping against hope to bring him back,
knowing intuitively it is too late.
But wanting his wife and family to know everything possible was done.
I wish you could know
the unique smell of burning insulation,
the taste of soot-filled mucus, the feeling of intense heat through your
turnout gear, the sound of flames crackling,
and the eeriness of being able to see absolutely nothing in dense smoke–
“sensations that I have becomed too familiar with.”
I wish you could understand
how it feels to go to school
in the morning after having spent most of the night,
hot and soaking wet at a multiple alarm fire.
I wish you could read my mind
as I respond to a building fire,
`Is this a false alarm or a working, breathing fire?
How is the building constructed? What hazards await me? Is anyone
trapped?’ or to an EMS call, `What is wrong with the patient? Is it minor
or life-threatening? Is the caller really in distress or is he waiting for
us with a 2×4 or a gun?’
I wish you could be
in the emergency room as the doctor pronounces dead
the beautiful little five-year old girl that I have been
trying to save during the past twenty-five minutes,
who will never go on her first date or say the words,
“I love you Mommy!”, again.
I wish you could know the frustration
I feel in the cab of the engine,
the driver with his foot pressing down hard on the pedal,
my arm tugging again and again at the air horn chain,
as you fail to yield right-of-way at an intersection or in traffic.
When you need us, however,
your first comment upon our arrival will be,
“It took you forever to get here!”
I wish you could read my thoughts
as I help extricate a girl of teenage years from the
mangled remains of her automobile,
`What if this were my sister, my girlfriend, or a friend?
What were her parents’ reactions going to be as they open the door
to find a police officer, HAT IN HAND?’
I wish you could know how it feels
to walk in the back door and greet my parents and family,
not having the heart to tell them that you nearly
did not come home from this last call.
I wish you could feel my hurt
as people verbally and sometimes physically,
abuse us or belittle what I do,
or as they express their attitudes of,
“It will never happen to me.”
I wish you could realize
the physical, emotional, and mental drain of missed meals,
lost sleep and forgone social activities,
in addition to all the tragedy my eyes have viewed.
I wish you could know the brotherhood
and self-satisfaction of helping save a life
or preserving someone’s property, of being there in times of crisis,
or creating order from total CHAOS.
I wish you could understand what it feels like
to have a little boy tugging on your arm and asking,
“Is my mommy o.k.?”
Not even being able to look in his eyes
without tears falling from your own and
not knowing what to say.
Or to have hold back a long-time friend
who watches his buddy having rescue breathing done on him
as they take him away in the ambulance.
You knowing all along he did not have his seat belt on–
sensations that I have become too familiar.
Unless you have lived this kind of life,
you will never truly understand or appreciate who I am,
what we are,
or what our job really means to us.


Author: Unknown