I am not sure if a little part of me dies every time I witness tragedy. It gets etched in my brain and stored somewhere in the back of my mind. Ask any firefighter to tell you about their first 'bad' call and they will be able to recount it with complete accuracy... whether it happened yesterday or twenty years ago. And they will describe it with alarming detail down to the time of day, the weather, who they ran the call with, the smell...... the smell is what gets to me the most.
Forgive us firefighters if we develop a sordid black humour. It is our way of protecting ourselves and bringing levity to a horrible situation. We are not robots, we feel just like everybody else except that we have developed our own coping mechanisms through the necessity of the work we do. If we can somehow find a way to laugh, then we have stopped or at least delayed the callous growing thicker over our hearts.
But a part of me also lives every time I witness tragedy. Because it is a sober yet great reminder that life is precious and fragile and life, most of all, is to be lived. I am not sure yet how I feel about death and dying... except that I cannot imagine what it would be like to leave my children motherless. Just the thought of it brings tears to my eyes. I get asked a lot if I am afraid at work. And yes, when I look back at certain situations, they were downright spooky. But at calls the adrenaline takes over and all I can think about is the job that I need to do. It's not until I get back to the safety of my own home that I might have a bit more than just a little bit of the shakes.
And although I am not a religious person, that is when I thank the Big Guy or Girl upstairs for keeping me and my family safe and allowing me to continue to do the work that I do with some really fantastic people.