Sunday, May 29, 2011

A Blessing

 If you've read the past few posts you know that it was a trying and painful few days for my Department family and me over the last week. I have a wake to attend today, and a funeral tomorrow before the final healing and sorting process can begin.
 They say God doesn't give us more than we can handle, but on more than a few occasions I have come to question that theory. I think there is a chance that this time God overdid it a bit this time and might have felt a little bad about it, because he threw something in to help me deal with it.
 Just 25 hours after we finished up that bad call and only 2 hours after the CISM session we had a bad storm come through and wreak some heavy havoc. I was so wiped out that I had taken the night off and slept through most of it because I needed the sleep badly. I was exhausted. We gad about 10-12 calls during the overnight and more calls started coming in when the sun rose and people discovered the damage. I grabbed a few calls before going to work because I knew the crew had been up all night and just went to bed, or off to work.
 All simple stuff requiring a report, or blocking off a road and notifying the power company or DPW. The last one was yet another "trees and wires" call and I headed up, but couldn't find anything as I crept up the main road searching the overhead. I swung around, came back, and still found nothing, so I pulled into the driveway of the address that was given to get my truck off the road and do a foot search. That's when I saw it. In the driveway, which was around 100 feet long, there were 5 or 6 20 inch diameter maples toppled over in every direction. A detached garage was blown to pieces, wires, power poles, and stuff all over the place.Two cars were fairly flattened. There were 2 houses served by this (formerly) nice driveway. I couldn't even see the houses. These folks got clobbered.
 I got out, walked up and was greeted by a gentleman walking down to meet me. After getting the basics covered (the houses are ok, nobody hurt, no smoke or fire, nobody with medical issues, etc) I went through the normal safety cautions like "Don't touch any wires until the power company gets here, take lots of pictures, call you insurance company" and also explained that as this was on private property, there was not a lot the Fire Department could do beyond ensuring the residents safety.
 I was about half way through the spiel when the fellow lifted his hand and said "I get it, everybody's fine, we're cool here, we just wanted to make the notifications and get the power company here to cut the power and get us on the 'list'. I am retired from the FDNY and I know the drill. There is no rush here."
 My eyes must have given me away. I looked at him and thought "FDNY, really? He looks like he's younger than me! Retired?" He offered a little more "I was forced out at 3/4 retirement after I broke my back working on The Pile for a month. It was the second time I broke my back, and they forced me out. A lot of guys went out after 9/11."
 Soon the Chief showed up and I gave him the rundown. The bottom line was that the situation was stable and with everybody out working, they would have to wait until the power company got there to get things started.
  We called dispatch and gave them the report. The Chief left for the next job and I started to leave myself when the fellow asked me which way I was going and if I could just give him a lift down the road to get some coffee at the market. "No sweat" I said, just hop in.
 So down we went and in that short drive I learned that he was a Lt. with Rescue 3, had 18 years in, and lost a lot of friends. He was mustered out and went through a bad bout of alcoholism, divorced, got dried up, 'fixed' himself, found a new love, and life is now good for him. He's been living in our town for 8 years. He misses the Service though, and 'hanging with the crew'.
 He asked me about our Department and I just said that it is probably a lot different than his experience, but we suffer our pains. I mentioned the tragedy that we were currently dealing with and he instinctively began to talk to me like a Brother who had worked by my side everyday. Sharing some short stories and metaphorically putting his hand on my shoulder. It was amazing how much we talked about in just 10 minutes.
 I dropped him off at home and on my way into work I gave the Chief a call and told him the guys story. I knew that we should be able to do a little more to help this guy out, and I also knew that the Chief (who spent 2 weeks on The Pile) would feel the same way.
 The Chief made some calls and got things rolling, he got a power crew to expedite over and get the power cut off, then he called some contractors to go over and scope the job and get them some quotes. Later that day, he called in a dispatch for a public service call for a non-emergent structural collapse and got a crew there to help remove some of the trees, open the driveway, and get the 1 car out of the collapsed garage.
 I stopped in the following day to check progress, and we chatted a little more. I invited the guy to come by the station anytime. For his part, he was very grateful for everything we did and impressed by our crew. I assured him that what we did for him were things that we are not 'supposed to do' and asked him to keep it a little quiet. We were just taking care of a Brother, it was no big deal.
 My short conversations with this Brother probably did more to help me through this week than anything else I tried.
 I'll stop by and check on him later today and bring an application with me. Our Department could always use a few more 'support members' and I think our young folks could learn a lot from this Brother. I know this old guy did.
Be Safe, Be Sharp,

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