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 engines left for the final time last Monday. For 83 years, this converted pool hall and bootstrapped garage served as the one and only firehouse in my hometown. I grew up in and around it. I served as a firefighter in it for thirty years.
It echoes inside now.
Leaves and Diesel fumes, and a piece of my heart.