We left a birthday party last week and headed northbound on the highway back home. I casually looked out my window and noticed an enormous growing black cloud headed upward, eerily contrasting the pale blue sky. I knew something was wrong. We got off on our exit and immediately fear entered my heart. My boys and I looked out the front window of the van and saw the massive angry red flames. I didn’t hear any sirens. I couldn’t see any fire trucks. All I could see was the fire growing. And growing. It was the largest fire I had ever seen. Right there. A short bike ride away from our house.
I called “911” like so many people probably had already done, judging by the dispatcher’s response, “Firefighters and police officers are already there.” Then, I began to worry. For the firefighters. For the possible victims. For their families. We said the first of many prayers for the firefighters and families as we drove away.
In the midst of difficult and hard-to-comprehend events, I am always reminded of this quote from Fred Rogers:
“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.” To this day, especially in times of “disaster,” I remember my mother’s words and I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers-so many caring people in this world.”
If only we all could possess an ounce of the courage, bravery, strength and selflessness of the first responders in our community. They knowingly leave their families and risk their own lives to save the lives of strangers. They grab their helmets and weighted suits and race into situations that most of us instinctively turn away from. Then, at the end of their shifts, when they take their protective equipment off, they bravely carry a different weight. The emotional weight of heroic work. All of the sights, the sounds, the pain, the bruised hearts, the victories and the losses.
Before bed, my boys all asked me, “Mommy, what if the fire gets to our house?” I am beyond grateful that I could respond in confidence, “The firefighters won’t stop working until the fire is all gone.”
Thank you to all of the first responders, firefighters and families. Sometimes, when we see the brutal realities of your jobs right in front of our own eyes, it stirs up an overwhelming response. A response that we probably should have every time we see you in a grocery store or at a baseball game or anywhere. Thank you for being the heroes that humbly walk among us.