Tagged: nostalgia

Nostalgia again

The tones drop, just like they have for the majority of my life. I've reached the point where I've been a firefighter for more of my life than not. (Scary thought, that.) A box alarm; routine. At least it's not another medical aid.

Circumstances conspire: maintenance, a detail. The first engine responds as usual, but the second piece will be the Reserve. As I dress I have a clear view across the empty ladder bay to where she gleams in the corner, the last red engine in our slowly whitening fleet. I confess a soft spot for her, as she's been around only slightly longer than I. We were rookies together.

The Captain and the Deputy are both riding tonight and they outrank me in terms of both bugles and service. I climb up into the canopy and take my seat, facing rearwards. A recruit fills the final seat, and I wonder if he fully appreciates this treat. The Captain flips a switch and bells (real genuine BELLS) fill the air warning of Low Oil Pressure!!! and other malfunctions. The Detroit diesel shudders to life in a cacophony of sound garnished with a puff of black smoke. The Deputy flips a switch; a solid THUNK announces that three monster relays have engaged three banks of spinning and blinking halogen lights. Cap drops the shift lever (a lever!) into Drive, and our faithful steed strains against her parking brakes. With a whoosh of escaping air, we flow down the ramp into the night.

I am transported, across town and across a career.


Code Red

I found myself engaged in a bit of reflection today, for various reasons. Then I stumbled across this:

Code Red

I haven’t seen that video in a long time. It looks so old now. I was in Providence attending college and buffing the PFD when it was filmed. In my heart the PFD will always run a fleet of classic Macks and Maxims. They purchased their last Mack, a 1991 CF with body by Ranger, when I was a sophomore. It’s retired now. The modern rigs may be better/faster/safer, but they don’t have the same class.

My local firehouse had a matched pair with custom Fox Point crests on their noses.

Its a calm night on the porch. In the back of my mind I can still hear Ladder 8’s old Maxim diesel roaring up Brook Street.

A tip of the hat to Michael Morse. I knew I’d seen that link somewhere recently.

Random musings

And soon the bright flames were wet black ashes and the crackling sound of the flames was quiet and there was only the great purring of the red hose truck pumping water and the bright searchlights of the fire engines making the trees and bushes much greener than they had been before.

While the sentence structure is not what I would use, the image is beautiful.  This evening at bedtime, it jumped at me from one of my favorite children’s books, The Five Little Firemen, by Margaret Wise Brown & Edith Thatcher Hurd, with illustrations by Tibor Gergely.  It’s a Little Golden Book from 1949, but you can still find it if you look.

Beauty and inspiration are where you find them.

Skip’s Mega Cruise (P365 – July 24)


July 24 – Now THIS is tailgating.  Beth and I went to Skip’s Drive-in in Merrimac for their annual Mega-Cruise.  There were over 550 cars in attendance, which is actually down from last year’s total.  It’s still amazing to see, and a great time for the price of a burger and fries.

Beth is definitely our kid.  She gravitates toward the 60’s muscle cars, although this was her favorite:


My favorite was this 1964 Ford Econoline Travel-Wagon.  It has a 170 cid engine between the seats, and a hammock inside the dome.  Forward control, three-on-the-tree, very rare, and very cool.




An elderly gentleman.

He sits in his bent car, with no recollection of where he came from or where he was going. Or at least he won’t tell us. The collision was minor, but he has no idea why he suddenly made a left turn into a parked car. He can’t or won’t answer most of our questions.

The collision was too minor to account for this. We can rule out hypoglycemia, but we have no way of knowing if his symptoms are from a stroke, pharmacology, senility, or sheer cussed stubbornness.

A pretty young woman.

She stands outside her bent car, watching with concern as we treat the other driver. She is uninjured and doesn’t want to go to the hospital. It’s a simple matter of paperwork.

Her birthdate triggers my own memory: she was born the week I graduated from high school.

An elderly cancer patient.

He sits on the bed in his rooming house. The room is tiny, not much bigger than the interior of my ambulance. A twin bed takes up one corner, with two dressers, an old television, and a hot plate on the other walls. It’s all clean and neatly arranged.

And next week it could all be someone else’s.

We carry him down three flights to the ambulance and embark on what may be his last ride. Who will remember him?

A middle-aged paramedic.

He sits in a folding chair outside the garage, enjoying the warm night air and wondering where the last eleven years have gone. Over his right shoulder the Medic 9 ticks softly, cooling after a busy evening.


The vast lobby of Big City Memorial Hospital bustles in the early fall afternoon. The revolving glass doors let sunlight and visitors in, while keeping the fall chill outside. The atrium soars three stories above; the hospital designers seem to have placed a roof over the space between two buildings, and then decided, “Hey, this would be a good place for a lobby!”


A hundred people pass to and fro within my field of view; doctors in white coats, nurses and technicians in hospital scrubs, maintenance people in green uniforms, one or two uniformed security guards, dozens of patients and visitors in all types of dress. They swarm up and down the stairs and escalators; they wait patiently at the elevator bank. A huge insect colony in motion, each member with a purpose, part of the whole.


Fifty feet away, behind two walls, my patient clings to life in her own cell of the giant hive.


I stand to one side, safely at the edge of the stream of humanity, the only one with patches on his shoulders. As life flows past, a harpist whom I had overlooked begins to play ‘Amazing Grace.’


Life goes on, and so must I.



Another Tuesday

It’s a beautiful late summer Tuesday morning. Good Friend and I finish our checklists and head out for bagels in the A9. GF’s news pager buzzes. He ‘harrumphs’ and hands it to me.
A plane has flown into the World Trade Center.

We assume it must be some idiotic private pilot with a Cessna, who somehow couldn’t see the gigantic building looming in front of him. Another customer in line behind us says, “No, I heard it was a DC-3.”

A DC-3?? Are there any of those still flying in metro New York?

Both of us are firefighters and history buffs, and our conversation drifts to the bomber which struck the Empire State Building in 1945.
Soon we find out the truth.

We arrive at Local Suburban Hospital for the transfer. We catch the replay of the second plane striking the towers on the TV in the ER waiting room. No one knows what is going on, but fear, shock, and anger begin to compete for dominance.

Being in public safety, our minds are racing in two directions: the brothers in NYC are going to have a bad day; and will it spill over into our little metropolitan area? Along with the shock, we must plan.

And there are still patients to transport.

We both find time to call home. The calls serve no rational purpose, but they allow us to touch our families. Yes, yes, we’re fine. No, I don’t know anything more than you do. Gotta go, stay safe, call if you need anything from us.

The order comes to fuel up. We’re not sure how big this may get, and we need to be ready. Rumors are drifting in about the Pentagon, a plane crash in PA; planes headed for the Capitol, the White House, the Sears Tower in Chicago, the Prudential and Hancock in Boston.

We’re headed for Local Dialysis Facility when we hear the news of the first tower falling. We now know that hundreds of our brothers have been murdered; we don’t know how many or by whom.
We hover in the waiting room at LDF and watch the second tower burn. And fall. I distinctly remember the TV tower wobbling just before it went.

The afternoon is a blur. We huddle around the TV, watching events unfold. The collapse of WTC 7 is anticlimactic; a side show. Who would have ever thought that watching a 47 story building fall would be a minor memory from any day?

We go down to the beach for a late dinner. Sin City is within sight of a major international airport; everything is quiet. Even the traffic is sparse and muted.

We stand in the parking lot for a long while, munching fried goodies and staring out to sea. We can hear the sound of a pair of F-15s flying patrol off the coast. If we stare long enough, we can eventually see one of them eclipse a star as it orbits in search of something, anything, to shoot at.

Eight years on now, the scenes are still vivid in my mind. The images of the attack share memory with the images of friends, family, and co-workers. I still can’t watch aircraft on low approach to Big City International Airport without a chill going down my spine.

2974 people were murdered on 9/11/01. 343 were my brother firefighters. Others were soldiers, medics, and police officers, and all were simply living their daily lives.

I have a new concern this year, however. How do I explain this to a school age child? She has no memory of these events, and I fear her reaction will be similar to my reaction to the Kennedy assassination. To me 9/11 is a traumatic event; to her it will be history.

I will never forget, but will she ever understand? And do I want her to?


All is peaceful. The only sound is the whir of the Coke machine. A window pane rattles as the wind buffets one of the six garage doors. Suddenly, a klaxon blares out. There is a loud CLANG-CLANG-CLANG as the alarm sounds. All across town, men are awakened to the insistent BEEP BEEP of pagers.

All is again quiet in the building. After a few moments, there comes the thud and scrape of the first sleepy man trying to unlock the door. The building is filled with the sound of recently-awakened men stumbling inside. The air is filled with an urgent purpose, accompanied by the clomp of ill-fitting boots and the swish of fire-resistant coats.

There is the click of a switch, and the interior of the building is illuminated by flashing red and white lights. If anyone were listening, he would hear the soft whir of rotating beacons and the protesting ‘pwee-pwee’ of strobe lights, cold from days of non-use. No one is listening.

The walls of the building shake as the great, twelve-foot wide doors rumble up out of the way, and the air is filled with the clamor of “Low Oil” warning bells. With a ferocious roar, the Diesels come alive. The hiss of air brakes is the last sound to be heard before the scream of the siren drowns out all else. The deep bass of the air horn is added to the cacophony, as the trucks disappear down the street in a cloud of black smoke.

Eventually the sirens and horns fade away, and all is peaceful again. The building is left to itself, with only the few leaves blown through the open doors and a lingering smell of Diesel fuel to indicate that anyone has passed this way.

The preceding was written in a college creative writing course in 1989. The assignment was to describe a scene or place using a different sense than one would expect. It has always been one of my favorite creations and is presented here on the theory that Google Never Forgets.

19 years. . .

As I was searching for a topic to start this blog, it occurred to me that last month marked 19 years on the fire department for me. In that time I’ve seen 3 chiefs, and only 2 full-time firefighters. I’ve seen 3 engines come, and 3 go. I’m on my third ladder truck.

I’ve saved a few lives, and I’ve lost (or at least been too late to save) a few others. I’ve seen one big mill fire a few years ago; one to tell the grandkids about. I’ve won commendations, and I’ve seen lots of people come and go.

I’ve seen my small suburban volunteer FD evolve from 100 runs per year to a combination department doing over 600. EMS has taken over half of what we do. We now have the technology to do things we only saw on TV years ago.

No idea where this is going, but sometimes it’s interesting to look back