15 January 2009

- Untitled

I had originally planned a post about organization today, but despite the best laid plans of mice and men, I am driven elsewhere.

An extraordinary thing happened this week in and around the original 02122. A man showed up for work, went about doing his job, and died in the process. Upon hearing this, most people would be shocked and immediately ask what happened.

If I revised the story and told you that a fire fighter showed up for work, responded to a call, and died in the process, it would undoubtedly be met with sorrow, though less surprise. As perfectly logical as that would be, today it leaves me feeling very uneasy.

I have made many jokes through the years, here on this blog even, about smoke detector Christmas ornaments and extinguishers as housewarming gifts. These things have become second nature to me over the past 20+ years. Familiar. Comfortable. As have the wail of sirens and the rumble of bagpipes, much to my dismay.

The scenes that took place over the past few days are not new to me. The pomp and circumstance is at once great and terrible. It is also universal.

Thousands of people have come from all over the US and Canada to stand in the bitter cold in navy blue uniforms and pristine white gloves. They swaddle themselves in traditions and wool to ward off the chill and the unspoken understanding that someday the people around them may be standing somewhere for them.

I have first hand experience of what it is like to be in that crowd.

The deep stillness permeates the crowd as you wait for the engine to arrive with the flag covered casket. You recognize some faces in the crowd, or at least you think you do. They tend to melt and blur in to one another. Your heart stops when you spot a family member standing at attention in the honor guard and you think it will never start back up.

The silence is enough to make your ears ring with the pounding of your own nervous system, when suddenly the bells call out, and pry loose the tears held at bay with rituals and rites.

Last alarm.

All clear.

Come home.

Did I know the man who was laid to rest this week? Yes. Though less than my siblings and parents, I had met him on several occasions and remember him well. Not that it would have mattered. I did not have to have known him to be connected to him. Every day he got up, put his boots on, and answered the bells.

When a line of duty death happens, there are an infinite numbers of reporters and politicians waiting in line to wax poetic about brotherhood and service. Awestruck at the show of support that is, to us, expected. Understood.

Today there are tears and anger, and there will be for some time to come. There is also laughter. And stories. And tall tales with very little basis in fact.

Tomorrow, there will be boots, bells, and a job to do. There is always another call coming in, and it has to be answered.


I've closed the comments because it is not about me today. It's about the countless people who get up and go to work and do the things we can not. Fire fighters, cops, teachers, EMTs. They lay claim only to doing their job, and shrug off any suggestion otherwise. The first in line for the red pen when the budgets get tight, and the people we can not function without.

Thank them today in some small way. Words, actions, or simply intentions will do, because even though we do not often stop to consider them, they are always thinking of us.