Providence (a rumination from 2005)

I wrote this on 9/11/05 as I reflected on all that had transpired in the World and in my life in the first 4 years since 9/11:

In the aftermath of the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11th 2001, my whole world changed. The magnitude of the tragic loss of so many people through such a cowardly act had a huge impact on my psyche. I felt a calling to do something more with my life, something with real meaning. At the time that those planes smashed into those towers I was working in advertising and somehow, afterward, my career didn’t seem very important anymore.

The country was locked-down. I didn’t go to work for days. I sat around watching the TV all day, every day, like many of my fellow citizen’s of this great country, saying “What can I do?” I sat and thought. I thought about the nearly 3000 innocent victims and their families. Most of them were just going to work like any other day, but they never came home.

Then I thought about all of the missing firefighter’s and their families. They go to work every day knowing that they might not get to come home. How hard it must be to send your husband or family member off to work every day and live with the reality that it may be the last time you ever see them.

It’s a firefighter’s duty to save life and property. Firefighter’s have been doing their jobs professionally for over 350 years in this country, and how much thought do the average citizen’s give to what firefighter’s do unless their lives are directly impacted by tragedy? Even then, what do they think when a firefighter reaches out to them and make’s a difference? Sometimes they are called heroes, but it mostly goes unnoticed. Still, most firefighter’s are content to not receive any accolades, because after all they are just doing their job. But it’s a job that means so much to so many people around the world every year.

On September 11, 2001, 343 FDNY Firefighter’s gave up their lives doing their job – saving lives. Yet none of them would have ever called themselves a “Hero,” they were just hard-working, highly trained men doing what they loved to do. Most importantly they did it with a sense of pride, courage, honor and loyalty.

How could I go on with my career in advertising selling products with no redeeming or inherent value? It just didn’t matter to me any longer. I wanted to be able to walk down the street everyday with a sense of pride in what I do, because what I do gives back to the World more than it takes.

I remember having a couple of long phone conversations, one with my Mother and one with my Father (a Vietnam Vet) in which I expressed my desire to do something to give back. I told my Dad that I wanted to join the Marines and be among the first to be sent over to get those SOB’s. Cooler heads prevailed and the grizzled veteran convinced me otherwise. He said “if you really want to do something, why don’t you become a police officer or a firefighter?”

On September 14, 2001 I decided to become a firefighter. I gave up my career in advertising, and threw myself headlong into the arduous process of becoming a firefighter. I thought of those 343 men when I walked into her office and told my boss “I quit!” I thought of them when entered EMT training, then Paramedic School at Northeastern University

I thought of those 343 men everyday while putting myself through Paramedic school for 40 hours a week and working another 60 hours a week (at $12/hr) just to get by. When I was down, and hurting, and all I wanted to do was quit, those 343 men got me through. I thought of those 343 men every day that I put on my uniform as a Paramedic in private service. I thought of them every time I responded to a 911 call (whether it was a Motor Vehicle Collision, someone having a Heart attack, or the little old lady that just couldn’t get herself off the toilet).

I thought of those 343 hard-working men the day I was hired onto the Fire Department. I thought of those 343 men every single day of the Fire Academy (especially during morning PT and the daily 5-mile runs when I didn’t think I could make it, they pushed me harder).

And on Wednesday, September 14th 2005, 4 years to the day from when I made the decision to become a firefighter, I’ll think of them again when I put on my Class A uniform for the first time and head into Florian Hall for my graduation from the Fire Academy. I can only hope that I do the job as well, and with as much pride, honor, courage and loyalty as the 343 men who made the ultimate sacrifice four years ago, and that I never, EVER forget!

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3 Responses to Providence (a rumination from 2005)

  1. Layla says:

    Wow. I actually don’t have any other profound words, except to say that I’m glad you found and followed your dream. You made something good come out of something bad.

  2. sheila says:

    As I write this my Cat Daddy is working hour #17 of a 36 hr rotation. This being his 21st year in NLFD, he is 1 of 72 men in fire suppression, another 12 or so in fire inspection/administration-and call volume between 6500-7000 yearly. New London CT is urban, not at all suburbs nor an easy place to live, or work. I live in denial daily, I just do. I have a full plate, what with Aidan and his challenges, my neurotypical son and my part time practice. When he leaves for work I take it for granted that he will return after his shift, it’s the only way I can do it. Although every Sept. 11 since 2001 reality strikes and strikes hard. There hasn’t been a fatality on the job in over 15 years, and I pray daily that there won’t be.
    It’s hard to take in the enormity of 343 members lost that day. And since, countless lives forever altered a result of chronic debilitating illnesses, secondary to working at ground zero. Thank God he didn’t go when other members of NLFD did. I was pregnant at the time and with a 2 year old running around, it just couldn’t happen. How many of his peers will be affected with chronic illnesses, not sure. The emotional toll is a different story. How could it not be, for all of us. Just like when Kennedy was shot and our parents remember that day vividly, 9/11 has had the same impact. Forever our lives were changed from that day forward.

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