Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Daddy's Girl (Explicit)


By Mark vonAppen

So, I’m at this backyard BBQ when this guy walks up…
Listing, he points his wine glass at me, “Fireman, right?”
“Uh-huh.”
It always goes the same way…
Idyllic, bullshit conversation ensues…
“Checkers and coffee all day, right?” He chuckles and claps me way too hard on the shoulder in a way that is way too chummy for a guy who’s not my friend.
Who the fuck is this guy?
I smile back, “Right…”
“You guys make a lot of money,” he persists.
I take a drink of my beer as my eyes dart around looking for my wife.
Get me out of here.
“I hear you guys are never at work.”
“Well, that’s not actually true…”
I can feel it, here it comes.
“So…”
The obligatory, ugly question.
“What’s the worst thing you’ve ever seen?”
Fuck.
“You don’t want to hear it.”
“C’mon man, tell me…” A misting of spit hits my face. He pokes me in the chest.
Others surround to witness the novelty, I can hear them now…
“He’s a fireman, how neat…”
I’m like a side-show carnie…
Tell us a story…
“No, you don’t want that in your head.”
“I can take it, c’mon give me a good one.”
If he had only raised his chin as he said it.
I snarl inside. 

The fuck you can…

Ok motherfucker - you want to take that ride? Take a deep hit of that chardonnay you cradle in your callous free, SPF 70 protected hands- you’re going to need it.
You asked for it, you pussy with your limp-dick, sweaty hand shake, living your insipid, zero-risk life, here it comes…
Climb inside my fucked up skull.
“Ok…
What do you think about when you drive to work?
I think about scars in the pavement, deep and angry.
Three cars…
Battery acid, gasoline, radiator fluid, crunching glass beneath my feet…
A dead girl, a screaming boy, a headless man, a dog…
120 days a year, cup of coffee in hand on my way to work, I pass the spot…
Trips with my family, there she is…
It's always there, if I try not to think about it - I’m thinking about it.
Right?
If I choose a different road, so I won’t see the scars in the pavement, it means I took a different road so I wouldn’t think about it - still thinking about it by trying not to think about it - a fucking endless feedback loop.
So here it is.
Fuck you for making polite conversation.
For making me think about it again.
I see a woman asleep drifting across the median into oncoming traffic,
A large truck with a lumber rack, you know the kind I mean?”

Fingering the neck of his glass he nods and shifts his weight.
“A boy and a girl in a tiny car, radio up, windows down, off together on an adventure…
A warm cloudless day…
Beautiful.
A horrific impact.
Front ends buried in the freeway, pavement gouged.
A woman sits beside the road, as if dropped from the sky, knees tucked to chest, head down, her face vacant.
She doesn’t have a mark on her.
Where’d she come from?
The boy is crushed. The girl is dead.
She was pretty as I recall… underneath blood matted shoulder length auburn hair, ribbons of ruby blood lay against her ashen skin, life drained, her heart crushed by the collision.
I watch her chest for the heaving of breath.
Nothing.
I brush a wisp of hair aside and touch her neck, still warm, slick with blood, feeling for the liquid slamming of her heart.
Nothing.
She wore a sleeveless blouse, on her shoulders she has tiny freckles…
Slivers of glass glisten like pixie dust over her body…
She spills from her seat onto her boyfriend, the driver.
He screams a scream from a place I’ve heard too many times, that place of anguish I never want to go again.
‘HOWS MY GIRLFRIEND? SHE WON’T ANSWER ME…’
Her head lies on his shoulder, neck violently snapped on impact.
His torso pinned, he can’t turn to see her or free an arm to touch her…
I lie. I say we’re doing everything we can.
We can’t do anything for her, she’s dead.
I sort the dead and living as though reading a grocery list.
No breathing, no pulse...
Next…
It’s nothing personal, it’s the job.
At times like these when you’re dead, you’re dead. If you’re close, you’re probably dead too.
Close counts in horseshoes, hand grenades, and triage.
That’s not it…”

He says, “Oh, shit, it gets worse?”

I seethe.
“Yup.
Truck spins off into another lane…
A normal guy in a car…
Going about his antiseptic life when two vehicles explode in front of him,
The big work truck, the one with the lumber rack- careens backwards into his lane…
The bumper of the truck with a 50 lb. vice attached,shatters the wind shield, severing his head…
When somebody’s head is gone that’s an easy one to figure out, done.
Next…
Vice and head in the back seat.”
“No…” the prick says.
“Want some more?” I ask like a combat-raged door gunner, straight out of the throes of battle, words are my ordinance.
He looks for a way out, “Oh my God…”
I lean in to him, temples throbbing.
“Wait, there’s more… You wanted a good one; right?
The car is really fucked up,
Now we have to get the boy out...
It takes about a half an hour or so.
He’s SO twisted up inside the car, every time we try to push, pull, or cut part of the car he screams from that place.
Long, drawn out, torturous screams until he loses his breath…
The veins in his neck bulge.
‘STOP! OH MY GOD, STOP!
HOW’S MY GIRLFRIEND?’
I try to soothe him, ‘Hang in there buddy. This is going to hurt.  We’re doing the best we can.’
Pathetic right? That’s the best shit I can come up with under the circumstances.
I had a lot going on.
I can’t see his face anymore, only hers.
Hazel eyes open to stare at nothing.
A heart shaped pendant around her neck...
‘Daddy’s Girl’
Each time we rock the car, her head, held on her freckled shoulders only by the skin of her neck, no life to hold the muscles firm, bones turned to gravel, convulses side to side and front to back in a manner that I can’t describe.
Or maybe I just did...I don’t know…
Stop shaking the fucking car!
We hold her head still so we feel better…
‘SHE WON’T ANSWER ME…’
We pop the door off with the Jaws -
Dashboard finally pushed off the boy, we lift him out.
Bones broken, his arms and legs hanging and bending like he has extra joints in the center of all his long bones.
Kind of like the limp tentacles of an octopus. Does that make sense?”

The prick looks through me.
I gulp down some beer...
I boil…

Poke me in the chest again motherfucker…
“My job isn’t so fucking cute anymore is it dipshit?
And it’s still not over.
Sharp white fragments of bone stick through his skin from these newly formed joints in the middle of his arms and legs.
The jagged ends grind together as we carry him…
He screams…
His limbs shattered in too many places to count.
A gurney carries him away.
Just when I think it’s over… this God damned dog appears.
Where the Hell did he come from?
He limps along on three good legs. One of his fore legs angled in a way that doesn’t make sense.
Enough already!
FUCK!
He whimpers. Dazed, he hobbles past me.
His snout is bent at weird angle too, webs of blood and drool hanging from it.
‘Aw, Jesus Christ! Let me shoot him…’ A police officer says to no one in particular.
We cover the daddy’s girl with a yellow blanket.
I look down and think, ‘Holy shit, look at how deep the pavement is scarred.’
Anything else you want to know before you move on to the next conversation?”

Asshole…

“Every time I drive past, there she is.”


“Daddy’s Girl”

The terrible (and real) accident occurred a number of years ago (2003) on Highway 280 in Northern California. I was inspired (strange choice of words) to write the piece when my wife asked me over coffee on a Sunday morning (2011) what it looks like when a train hits someone.

She had been reading an article in the paper in which a couple visiting our area were hit by a commuter train and the wife was killed. I have been on too many pedestrian versus train incidents in my career. My answer, “Not pretty. You don’t want to know.”

Most of the time I’m polite and I decline to tell stories. The ghosts that rattle around in my head need to stay there, free to haunt me and no one else. My reality is not the same as theirs. Not even close. I am glad it’s not.

My mind says to me, “Remember when that guy doused himself in gasoline and lit himself on fire? Remember what it smelled like in the medic van as you drove him as fast as you could to the trauma center?”

That was Mockingbird Lane in Sunnyvale, 1997. I was a 24 year-old kid EMT on a paramedic unit.

Charles Bukowski wrote a beautiful and somber poem titled “The Layover”. I think it sums up a lot of what I have seen, and what I experienced in my career, though years ago by measure, it is only one sentence back in my mind.

The Layover 

That moment - to this. . .
may be years in the way they measure,
but it's only one sentence back in my mind
there are so many days
when living stops and pulls up and sits
and waits like a train on the rails…
I look up at the window and think,
I no longer know where you are,
and I walk on and wonder where
the living goes
when it stops

- Charles Bukowski

I look at places around town in terms of where my first fire occurred, someone was stabbed or shot there, we delivered a baby on that corner, and scars in the pavement…
Someday the freeway will be resurfaced and then maybe she’ll go away, or maybe she won’t.

Every time I drive to work along the freeway my eyes track to the exact spot where the pavement is gouged and I go back.

Battery acid, radiator fluid, twisted metal, crunching glass beneath my feet, the sweet, coppery smell of blood…and there she is.

***PTSD is a subject we don't like to talk about.  Suicide among Fire/Police/EMS is a much bigger problem than anyone cares to mention.  It is truly the industry's dirty little secret.  They are both very real issues and they are right in our face.  If you, or someone you know is suffering there is help: Contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 
1(800) 273-TALK (8255) 

473 comments:

  1. Replies
    1. this is how I feel whenever someone calls me an ambulance driver or makes the kind of statement that was made in the story about days being spent playing checkers.

      Delete
    2. I just tell them you are welcome to do cpr on a 4 month old little girl as her parents scream save my baby and you know it's to late!

      Delete
    3. I was a EMT for 5 years before going back to college, i saw alot in ,just the 5yrs so i admire the many medics and firemen who are still at it - ppl can ask such stupid questions- why would you want to hear of anothers pain and suffering?

      Delete
    4. Troy Cannon, Coroner- Marion Co., ILFebruary 6, 2014 at 1:52 PM

      After 30 years or so in public service, including military, police, war zone contractor, and now Coroner, your story touches me in "that place" that we like to think doesn't exist. We ignore it so we can endure what's coming next while trying to forget what's already there, in "that place." Your words have helped me heal scars I've either ignored or pretended didn't exist. Thank you from the bottom of my heart- from "that place."

      Delete
    5. god bless you for what you do everyday sending Blessings

      Delete
    6. My son is a full time fire fighter. People do not understand that they do not just go to fires they go to accidents. What they see takes a toll on them and as their family it is up to us to try and ease their burden, we can't but we try. Be thankful every day that there are people like my son willing to put their lives on the line for you. They run into burning buildings when people are running out.

      Delete
    7. Removing the remains of a 5 month old blond baby girl from the area behind the glove box under the dashboard. Her loving and drunk dad had taken her from the moms house, and drove his 1974 nova into a massive electric pole. 100 mph. 32 years ago. I can see it, now.

      Delete
    8. When I was about 6 I hear a tremendous crash on the main highway about a half mile from my grandmother's house. So being curious I walked through the neighbor's yards as I made my way towards the sound. I got there just a few minutes after the ambulance. I watched as they raised the front of a semi and pulled an MG from under it's frame. The windshield was gone, and so was the head, and most of the shoulders of the driver. They talked among themselves as the pried at the car so they could recover the body of the driver. Yet my attention drawn to one fire crew member, who was talking to a neighbor. The neighbor left and returned with a large feed shovel. The crew man then scraped what was left of the man's head and brains from the road surface and shoveled it into what looked like a pillowcase. He then placed the pillowcase in the back of the ambulance. Even now, 50 years later, I can still see the images, and I always wondered how the response crew could live with that day after day.

      Delete
    9. A few weeks ago, my son called. Dad...he said... I could tell from the sound of his voice something was wrong. What is it?.. dad..I lost a 6 year old boy today...he was talking through tears..my heart broke for his broken heart and the child, and the parents who stood and pleaded with their God and my son, and anyone who might have the power of a miracle...save my child.. please.. please... we talked for a while.. mostly I listened... until I was sure he was going to be ok...he finally put the image away.. for a while... hopefully longer...
      He does it every day...facing things I dare not mention for fear they will become my nightmares. To all those men and women who work saving lives and dealing with these unthinkable tragedies....I pray you find peace and comfort in knowing you are truly extraordinary poeple.

      Delete
    10. The 16 year old girl who jumped from a moving vehicle on prom night.........

      Delete
    11. Hey, lighten up. Inquiring minds want to know!!! Death, even tragic DEATH IS ALL A PART OF LIFE. No one gets out alive. People need to know these things however seemingly morbid. Its good to have open dialogue on such matters, as it is all part of the human condition. Anyone who has seen European TV will tell you : they don't pull any punches. Things are shown for what they are. If you don't like it, then turn your head from it.

      Delete
  2. Those are also my thoughts when someone asks me that same question. My usual answers are "Nothing major", "Mostly medical calls". Occasionally I answer "I don't usually talk about it"...and then walk away. Inside I have all those calls bouncing around. Thanks for putting words to those thoughts and feelings...and thanks for sharing yours.

    ReplyDelete
  3. I could tell my own story.........but you've already told it. Bless you brother.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Ain't that the truth.

      Delete
    2. DITTO!!!!!!!!!

      Delete
    3. I worked the field over 20years ago- now I am in communications... I remember those accidents when I drive by the locations where they happened. The major calls with multiple fatalities... or that one kid that looked too young to be driving...becoming one with his car when he tried to race another... yup.. still in there.

      Delete
    4. Probably all of us who answer the call could, and sometimes do tell our own stories. Not to brag or show off, but usually to others how answer the call too, to let them know that they are not alone, with their memories of a 'bad one'. Most of the time, like this person, our first thought is a quote from a movie, "YOU CAN'T HANDLE THE TRUTH!!!" To the rest of you who do and have seen things that people shouldn't see, from one to another, Thank You, and may God bless and protect us.

      Delete
    5. 31 years as a fireman seen a lot of bad things your story covers the worst.

      Delete
    6. This also applies for tow truck operators i know i have that place in me as well, i also say you dont wanna know thanks for this peice it helps tremendously. BE BLESSED MY FRIEND

      Delete
  4. Like the idiots that harangue the combat veteran for a story about the worst thing they saw in battle. You never talk about it. You can't forget but you try to ignore it. You protect others from these things too as they don't really need to know. But some time you might just give in and tell it since some genius brought it to the foreground of your thoughts so you make sure they can experience even a bit of the same pain. Though it will never be the same as being there.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The dumbest questions that's has ever been asked of me when I returned from Afghanistan, Oh wow how many towels heads did you kill? Did you see any dead bodies? I always turn and walk away. Or my first deployment stateside...been gone a year and return oh were you in Iraq? no I was stateside. His response oh.

      Delete
    2. Well said Brother!! To those that think it's a cake job..... WAKE UP!!!, it's not! This isn't a job for just anyone. I have 28 yrs as a Firefighter/EMT and Training Officer for my station. The demons and Ghosts are many and unless you've experienced them like we have, you have no idea what this job is like. The smells that we have smelled and the things we have encountered are things you never can forget no matter how hard you try or what you do. Our ghosts are just that.... ours. Let them be,... PLEASE! Most of us just want to try to go about our lives and not relive the things we've seen just because you have this misconception about our world being so great and that we just hang around and do basically nothing. When you ask us a question and we say you don't want to know, drop it and change the subject or just smile and walk away and please, don't keep asking and pushing the issue, or follow us if we walk away. I walk away to protect you as well as myself from the ghosts. Respect it, please. To all the Brothers that have been there,.... done that,.... try to remember that you're not alone and we are all part of the biggest and best Brotherhood in the world! We understand and feel your pain. Stay Safe.... and Never give up!!

      Delete
    3. When I was a teenager I naïvely asked my grandpa what was the worst thing he saw and he told me and I never asked again. I have a friend who has served in Iraq and Afghanistan respectively and he told me a story (of his own free will I didn't ask him) when he was in Iraq and an IED went off behind him and destroyed the Hummer his friends were in and got very descriptive when telling me what happened in the aftermath of the explosion. I honestly don't know how he can get up in the morning, be around his family, work and just have this stuff in his head because he spoke about it like I would about going to the grocery store. I have nothing, but mad respect for our military and people who work the ambulances and fire trucks. Thanks to all who serve in any capacity and keep doing what you do. All the best and gods speed!

      Delete
    4. I have Firemen and police friends and I don't ask! we speak of other pleasant things.

      Delete
  5. 25 years a firefighter; 14 years on a medic unit; USA Army Ranger combat veteran; I know what you say, I hear your silent screams My Brother; My demons are mine , I choose not to share They will never understand. You and those like Us will ; While we don't know each other face to face we know each other heart to heart; only We will understand why we do what we do . There are no reminders. We cannot be reminded of that which we will not ever forget . It is Us It is not what we do It is who we are . Let Your heart Rest easy My Brother for today is a Good day . Peace. wmslt

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Ture... so true. Big city or middle-of-nowhere USA. Trauma is trauma; Memories are memories; Ghosts are ghosts no matter where. I see the excitement on the faces of the new guys and I sometimes wonder how do you break them in ahead of time, before they get to "that" call? I was first at a fatal MVA where I thought I knew the teenage girl until six months later I saw her at her HS graduation. Could've been her twin. I never would've known. The housewife pacing the trailer waiting for family after her husband codes and is taken away at daybreak on Easter morning, "CPR in progress." There's nothign that can really be done for him, but she's left with herself and her thoughts and her slippers. The sleeper who got home and started supper after being on the road all week and fell asleep - your run-of-the-mill "burnt food on the stove" turned into a structure fire and he made it as far as rolling off his bed before becoming overcome by smoke. Some of the new guys test themselves by looking in the bedroom window, never seeing "a body" before. Some can't.
      We'll never be out of a job, but it would be a nice thought.

      Delete
  6. Thank you for your continued service to your community. Your professionalism and dedication allows the average citizen to feel secure and remain blind to the brutal reality around them. In my 15 years under the headset as a police and fire dispatcher there are so many terrible calls. We get the same dumb "worst call" question. I've worked 4 officer involved shootings, attended 2 LODD's for those I've worked directly with and heard all kinds of human depravity. Still I feel thankful to be somewhat isolated from the visceral scenes that I send my officers to deal with on a daily basis.

    ReplyDelete
  7. We all can tell OUR own stories, the sad things are the endings are all the same and so are the demons we live with everyday. WE are all cut from the same cloth. You are NOT alone my Brother you will never be alone. God Bless and God speed.

    ReplyDelete
  8. That's an awesome story brother. Thanks for sharing. I often tell my peers that the best thing I can do most times is talk to another firefighter. They have felt that story personally and most importantly, understand.

    ReplyDelete
  9. Always hated those moments when non-friends ask about your job. Ret. Police here. Hang in there brother.

    ReplyDelete
  10. Every fireman and cop has one of these cemented in their minds. Don't ask us about them. I think of several every day of my life. This is the real don't don't tell.
    Blessings
    Randy

    ReplyDelete
  11. Wow...so powerful. Myself and, I'm sure, many others don't appreciate what you carry with you every day. Thank you for reminding me. Btw, your storytelling is phenomenal.

    ReplyDelete
  12. I am so sorry that any of you have to be subjected to truths like this .My son is a paramedic/firefighter and I pray he is coping with his demons. Thank you for what you do, thank all of you for taking care of our loved ones.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. My son to is a paramedic/firefighter and I worry about what he holds in his head. Am so proud of him and hope that he to can cope with the demons. Thank you to all our front liners

      Delete
  13. E.A. BFFD WisconsinJanuary 22, 2014 at 7:39 PM

    My answer is always .... you really don't want to know. End of story and walk away. We all have those scenes and patients that will haunt our memories forever.

    ReplyDelete
  14. Wow. I am always so thankful for everyone in these professions, yet perhaps never realized the extent of what you carry with you. I am sorry, I am grateful, I am horrified. I'm glad you put this out there.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I have 2 sons, husband and ex husband that are all in the profession..I know first hand how these calls affect them. I appreciate the posting you wrote.Bless You and ALL of them

      Delete
  15. I to struggle with the ghost of a little girl. She has haunted me for the past 8 years. Many of nights does that run replay its self in my mind. Shortly after I became a firefighter.

    ReplyDelete
  16. Thanks Brother I could not put in words as you have but as a Volunteer for 33 years and Paid for 24 I have the thoughts in my head also. God Bless you for your service.

    ReplyDelete
  17. That's why I tell people who don't need to know what I do that I am a janitor.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I used to tell folks I was a social worker just to avoid the run down of questions of prior events. Ghosts...Lost count after the first fifty.. It made the job so it wasn't so fun anymore. Years and years later,,I still see them. All of them at different times and any of the locations... Left work on the last day,,in an ambulance code 3 ,,my Own heart attack at work,,,to the best heart surgeons around. Two weeks later had another heart attack, 3x bypass,,and lungs collapsed after 11 hr surgery. went into a coma for 28 days,,,and was 5 % chance to live, They told my wife and kids to say goodbye. They could not get my oxygen levels correct. Hit me with the paddles 13 times in the process of it all. I am now alive 10 and 1/2 years post coma,, and retired . Don't have to walk The Thin Blue Line,,,,anymore............ God bless all of us who do our best to leave the ghosts in the closet....... Just a Guy They Called Friendly.............

      Delete
  18. I still remember from 40 + years ago. When I drive the street.

    ReplyDelete
  19. No --- do tell -- tell every story - as a warning - as a reminder - as a reality check - as a question, "tell me about your close calls that rattled your soul " --- do not keep these stories to yourself - let it out - expose it to the light of day - put it out there so people won't ask - so people might understand - share the burden - say it again again and again - write it - type it - try anything and everything to let it go -

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. We can't. It's not the trauma we protect them from, it's the knowing.

      Delete
  20. Well written and very powerful. I'm so thankful for all that you do. My husband is a firefighter and I've always admired his courage and strength. Your story is very moving. Thanks for sharing.

    ReplyDelete
  21. 25 volunteer and 15 paid. I still see them along side the road too. Great answer my friend.

    ReplyDelete
  22. They never go away brother never

    ReplyDelete
  23. Great story. I wish more people were aware what a real emergency was! I work in ER and stupid fucks complain about the wait times while the sick person sits quietly in the back.

    ReplyDelete
  24. I understand completely. 10 Years Uniform Patrol, 7 Years Criminal Investigation, 5 years in Crime Scene and the and the last 13 in Administration..............The pukes like you describe are everywhere. I get sick of it. They just don't get it. I can remember every fatal accident, homicide, suicide, autopsy....all of it. Hell, I can still recall the odors on some of them. Screwed up skull? Yep, I got it.

    ReplyDelete
  25. Paramedics, firefighters, police and sheriff officers doctors,nurses,and our military are all exceptional people. I know for a fact I could not do those jobs every day, but my father was in the Army during World War II, and later in life became a EMT/firefighter, my brother-in-law was also in the Army and then a firefighter where he lost his life in the line of duty at a fire, and my husband retired from the fire department after over 20 years where he was an EMT/firefighter. I know there jobs were not easy, yes there were times when they may not have a call while on duty one day, but they are constantly training, to improve themselves, to be prepared for their next call. God Bless them one and all, you have my utmost respect and gratitude.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. you are right Debbie. Those people that work in those fields of service are exceptional people. You have to have a strong mind and will. The average person could not handle the things that those people have dealt with. Usually the only ones they discuss things with is their fellow co-workers, having been there myself. You want to leave things "at the office" when you finish your shift. The stress finally got the best of me, it brought on health problems and I had to give it up. I do agree it is rude and inconsiderate of people to ask such questions, but some people have no regard for such manners.

      Delete
  26. God made our hearts strong for this job brother.I have 20 yrs of ghost that live with me and me alone..

    ReplyDelete
  27. I know its a hard job to be firefighter or
    A emt . I lost my my sister amber , my brother Kenneth , nefew Anthony , my niece shanna (sanders ) all in a trailer fire in perry Illinois in 2003 . Amber was 20 Kenny was 19 Anthony was 5 Shanna was 3 months old when this happened to them I am 32 and still willnever get over tthe shock its had on my life to loose what means so much to me I could not imagine what the emt and firefighters went threw finding what they found that early morning in that trailer fire . I give them most respect for the job they do . Till this tragic accent happened I wanted to be EMT but since this happened to me I no longer want to be a EMT . Coping with traggity has mad me shy totally away from medical field . So just remember what they see everyday .know there jobs are not easy by any means .

    ReplyDelete
  28. Comment above is by Tonya sanders Williams from Illinois

    ReplyDelete
  29. Mark,

    Wow. I don't think I have ever read anything so poignant. I am a trauma nurse and, most importantly, the mother of an amazing young man who will forever be 18. He died in a car accident in 2009. While I have seen my share of horrible sites I can not and do not want to see what you guys/gals see out on the road. It is a career that you obviously love and you compassion is undeniable. Thank you so much for this tribute. The Daddy (mom and the whole family) of this girl would surely feel relief in knowing that someone had great respect for his daughter in her death. The medics that were on the scene of my Benji's accident all knew me and I knew that each of them treated my baby with dignity and respect for him. Not because they knew me for they didn't know he was mine but because I've seen those men in action over many years and they had always treated each and every patient in this same manner. God bless you my friend for you and your brothers/sisters truly make a difference in this world.

    ReplyDelete
  30. Thank you for your bravery and strength without people such as all of you a lot more people would not be here today. THANK YOU, THANK YOU , THANK YOU!!!!!!!!!

    ReplyDelete
  31. 30 years in EMS. 29 years as a firefighter. 28 years as a paramedic. Even the people I work with have a hard time understanding what I tell them as I teach the new men and women for the line. There are good days, and there are so many very bad days. I work in the rural setting and 25 years in the inner city. Each has its horror stories. Something is wrong with me I think, because I still love my job. But there are days.....

    ReplyDelete
  32. It is impossible to make someone fully understand the sights, smells, and horrorific things that Firefighters store in their brain.. I spent 25 years as a Professional Firefighter for the City of Louisville Kentucky and I have been retired for 25 years now, and I still remember clearly the sights I have seen.. Not all are bad, some are just the funny things that have gone on, the Pranks, the Gotchas, etc.. You did good in answering that kook, the way you did.. He will forget what you told him, but at least he will better understand that "I heard you Firefighters don't do anything".. If he only knew how many times we relive those Tragedies. It takes a toll on your friendships out of the Firehouse and at home, but the standard answer is "You don't really want to know" . Never once did I take my demons home with me, but they were with me 24/7...

    ReplyDelete
  33. 22 years in the EMS field, and 8 as a Field Training Officer has humbled me.

    Terry Frost EMT-B FTO

    ReplyDelete
  34. 22 years as a firefighter .....they just don't know what WE see.....

    ReplyDelete
  35. I'm a 911 sheriff/police dispatcher and have been going on thirty years. I have heared just about everything you could imagine and seen almost as much. I am married to a retired Deputy Sheriff now Police Officer and have heard more than you can ever think of. This world is much worse then you could possibly imagine or even think about. The general public doesn't give the respect to their public servents as they should....they just want to complain when they are not happy with something and then throw up in your face that they pay your salary....
    Well let me tell you, you don't pay worth a shit and you get outstanding service!!

    ReplyDelete
  36. So well written! Thank you for what you do! I am an ER nurse and will always have the utmost respect for you guys!

    ReplyDelete
  37. Bless all of you who are called to do this work .at times of our greatest pain and fear just a kind voice gets you to the next point in time.i had a terrible accident and the emt and state trooper were my strength. I know my emt and I've thanked him I can still hear the the Ky state trooper's voice. So I thank the trooper who worked a fiery crash June 8,1994 hwy 293 in Caldwell county. God bless you thank you

    ReplyDelete
  38. JOYCE M. MCCLELLANJanuary 24, 2014 at 4:27 AM

    GOD BLESS YOU AND ALL THAT YOU HAVE TO INDURE, I GUESS I WAS ONE OF THE LUCKY ONES, SEE WHEN I WAS ONLY 6, I MYSELF WAS IN A CAR ACCIDENT, I AM 51 NOW, BUT IT WAS A WARM BUT RAINY SUMMER DAY, MY MOTHER, 2 YEAR OLD SISTER AND MYSELF WERE ON OUR WAY TO SEE MY AUNT WHEN FOR WHAT EVER REASON THE CAR WENT AIRBORN THOWING ME OUT THE SIDE WINDOW, MY RIGHT ARM WAS BROKEN AND MY LEFT SEVERED, MY 2 YEAR OLD LITTLE SISTER WAS KILLED INSTANTLY BECAUSE THE BRIDGE THAT WE HIT CAME THRU THE CAR AND HIT HER IN THE HEAD, AT LEAST I TAKE COMFORT IN KNOWING SHE DID NOT SUFFER, MY MOTHER ALMOST DID'NT PULL THRU BUT DID, I HAVE TO PASS THAT PARTICULAR BRIDGE PRETTY REGULAR SO I KNOW HOW HE FEELS, NO IT WAS NOT THANK GOD WHAT HE SAW BUT THERE WAS A MAN WHO STOPPED TOOK HIS SHIRT OFF AND TIED MY ARM TO KEEP ME FROM BLEEDING TO DEATH AND TO THIS DAY I DO NOT KNOW WHO WAS BUT THANK GOD FOR HIM EVERYDAY, I JUST WANT YOU TO KNOW THAT EVEN THOUGH THERE ARE PEOPLE WHO FOR WHATEVER SICK TWISTED REASON LIKE TO HEAR ABOUT DISPAIR, I THANK YOU ALL AND LOVE YOU GUYS FOR HAVING THE COURAGE TO DO WHAT YOU DO EVERDAY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! GOD BLESS

    ReplyDelete
  39. Each day on the job serves as a reminder to me to savor every moment that we have while we're here. The chaos that governs this life shows us all that there is no promise of another day or another hour.

    Darkness is around every corner, but so is light, so we must focus on those things that light our lives and make them worth living.

    Treat people right.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Brother I could not have said it any better. Seeing any life lost is a shame...the hardest ones for me were the young...lost before their prime could even get started. The one thing the job taught me take nothing for granted for in a flash it could be gone. I am thankful for every single minute....i don't care how bad of a day it is...I woke up, got out of bed, saw the ones that I love and in the not mush else matters.

      Delete
  40. 27 years as a ff/medic many sad days especially when young people or kids are involved. Life is fragile but also remember the "saves" and calls where the outcomes was good! We are the lucky ones that can make a difference and protect our neighbors, friends and even strangers.

    ReplyDelete
  41. Word! 28 years FF/EMT most people don't ask, only the real dumb ones.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. AMEN to that...... I don't even answer the dumb ones anymore

      Delete
  42. My Ex never understood why I would lay sleepless at night wanting so badly so drift off into a peaceful slumber only to have that endless slide show in my head play on and on. Unable to turn off the projector, pull the plug even turn on the lights so maybe the images would fade somewhat on and on it would play....Almost 15 years ago I had seen all that any one person should see I walked away from all of it and the show......it still goes on not as often but you never know when the next showing will be.

    No one can understand it unless of course you have been there yourself, with your own endless, always streaming show. We do it everyday and in many cases with little or no thanks and almost no thought of what it really takes to do what we do or have done. So having been there and done that far to many times to count....my hats off to all of my fellow brothers/sisters for no one knows the true depths of our pain or the real cost of our giving

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

      Delete
    2. As I read what I wrote here I can say that if you are in this business long enough you will have your "Daddy's Little Girl" moment. You know what the funny thing is....I don't remember the face of the little old lady who just needed some comfort....but I can remember every detail of the well what this blog is about....This blog touched me....I am not alone...someone understands....feels what I feel..thanks brothers!!!! I needed this!

      Delete
    3. My Mom would say to me you know Mark there is a special place in Heaven for people like you. Man I hope so because the hell you go through here is too much someimes

      Delete
  43. im sorry the world is filled with stupid people, thank you for what you do i wouldnt want to do it and im sorrry you have all those awfull memories may god be with you and yours

    ReplyDelete
  44. I just want to say thank you.I know where u r coming from.Prayers for comfort

    ReplyDelete
  45. My 3rd infant death in 13 months ended my 22 year career in EMS. 6 total and every other trauma nightmare known to man! PTSD is no joke! You only understand if you've lived it!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You're not alone. There are those that do understand. I've learned that trying to keep it inside, only creates havoc on your soul. Please find someone who you can talk to. You're right: PTSD is no joke. And, there are those out there that can help you. Find peace, and know how much you are appreciated.

      Delete
  46. After 27 years and still going I myself have seen my share. I often share the "funny" calls I have been a part of with those who ask. The real stories are kept in their perspective files. I myself have been confronted with the same type questions. Those who ask wouldn't get the picture if I painted it for them. The sounds and smells cannot be conveyed. Movies have desensitized our society where it is Ok to ask someone to share those demons. Just look at them smile and move on. Even if you told the story, they wouldn't understand.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Humor is good for the soul. That's how my dad handled the hell he went through on the job. He would tell the funny situations and stupidity of some of them. There were many that had you laughing till you cried. Those that experience this type of work, got to laugh and let their tears be shed.

      Delete
  47. We in the emergency services ALL have our 'worst' calls which leave us with many scars. ... We attempt to forget, but some how some way those calls remain as a reminder, nightmare, or thought! It takes a very special kind of person to work in the emergency services, whether it be as a fire fighter, EMT, paramedic, police officer, Chaplin or a dispatcher! THANK YOU to all who are out every day (volunteer or paid) for your commitment to what can be a horrific/rewarding job!

    ReplyDelete
  48. I have been a ff emt for 19 years. Thank you for writing this even though it brought back some of the memories that I thought were gone.

    ReplyDelete
  49. Thank you for sharing

    ReplyDelete
  50. Thanks for sharing,I am a combat vet and I have this therapist that seems to think that the more i tell my stories the better my PTSD will be. i have tried it and i strongly dissagree. God bless you all.

    ReplyDelete
  51. As a news photographer in a small town with a lot of accidents I also saw the same things. pedestrian versus train was common, drunk drivers, and then came the truck that ran over an intoxicated man's head. The things I saw while trying to record the news and make it sanitized enough that the readers could handle it were horrible. I loved it when the EMTs and police would put up a sheet or move a squad car into a good position to block the carnage. In the end I had to walk away from it - I loved the job, but not those things. It nearly cost me my marriage, and 6 years later I still take antidepressants. There are some things no person should have to see.

    ReplyDelete
  52. 29 years as a cop (VFD and EMS) and I understand the ghosts that rattle around in the head. Thanks brother

    ReplyDelete
  53. Previously being in Law Enforcement, being a volunteer EMT, and now working in the Emergency Room of the local hospital, I can so relate to the words you speak. Many times I have gone home and had countless nightmares of the things I have seen. Those memories never go away !!! Until someone actually does the work that we do, they will never understand. God bless to all those out there, like myself who despite the horrors we see and experience, feel a great sense of love for being able to help those that we can.

    ReplyDelete
  54. I can't imagine the feeling one gets when asked "what is the worst thing you have seen?" After being on the inside looking out I imagine it can cause deep and bitter feelings. Whereas I am sure some questioners deserve to be disdained, I can also assure you that many of those questions come from people who are simply curious and/or ignorant. It is hard to imagine the worst that one can see if one has never seen it.
    I have interviewed more than 50 World War One veterans in the past. I was not so unkind or ignorant as to ask such questions as the guy in this story, but I did hear accounts of things so horrible that I could scarcely imagine them (& some light hearted/ funny stories too.) That said, I did notice that those men and women who were open about what they had seen, seemed to be the least haunted by it. None forgot the horror, but those who were open about their experiences seemed to lighten their burden. (And it made this writer appreciate them all the more.)
    Lastly, I will say that I am glad that I have so far escaped the terrible images that linger in the thoughts of many of you who have posted here. For that I am grateful, and I am deeply grateful and indebted to those whose jobs require confronting and helping people during terrible situations. I have always said a quiet thank you every time I see rescue vehicles pass me in life, and I thank you again, now.

    ReplyDelete
  55. Does it help to talk about it? To let the stories out? My husband never talks about it. I know he sees stuff...I hear it on his scanner. I want to ask. ..to give him release. ..but I he tries to protect me. Makes my heart break that he has these ghosts in his head

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes it does help if you are ready and willing to let it out. For many the pain of reliving the nightmare is too painful. I sought help and it helped me. The images are still there but it help me to deal with the feelings and emotions.

      Delete
  56. Nurses and I imagine doctors get these stupid questions too. "Oh you're an ER nurse, what's the worst you've seen? " AAre you kidding me? My cousin is in the Army and we've been at family functions where either one or both of us have been approached with this. I look at her, she looks at me and simply say, "Nothing. "

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Former ER nurse....I'd tell people I was a bartender. Those "stories AREN'T fiction" that was a person

      Delete
  57. Career Captain with over 20 plus years in the fire service, The screams for help, smell of flesh burning, the horrific sights that you just can't turn off like a light switch. I hear you brother.

    ReplyDelete
  58. Hey.

    nothing compares to the stuff you see in the hell of the job. people think its easy. its not. i have my own demons i collected and keep locked away for now. thanks for this though. it helps for others i think.

    steve.

    ReplyDelete
  59. I have friends in this field and for the record, I never ask. The reality of the occupation is traumatic and nobody ever needs reminded of or have to re tell the tales of the shit storms they rushed into to help.
    I often see it In their eyes when something triggers a bad memory..a place..a person...or even a smell and pray the memory passes as quickly as it was triggered.
    God bless you all.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It's great you respect your friend enough not to ask, you could ask and like some of the other's have stated you would not be smelling it or hearing it. I worked EMS for 14 years and still do some work with ES. I do not sleep hardly at all, and if I do sleep it's more like a catnap, every face or name or event roams in my head. God Bless and stay safe.

      Delete
  60. I don't think the average citizen has a clue with what we deal with on a daily basis. We in law enforcement and the fire services become numb, and callous. After doing the job in law enforcement for over 25 years now, I can actually say that there is nothing I see that shocks me or bothers me. Do we have issues? Oh yeah like waking up at night reliving horrific events that might have happened years ago. I agree with Mark and this article, leave all the bad shit in our own heads, it doesn't need to come out to infect others.

    ReplyDelete
  61. I have 26 yrs service in as a firefighter and 15 in EMS too. People have no clue what we go through. Always away from family on Holidays or special occassions because we chose this profession because we love our jobs. I have many sleepless nights to this day. I wake up in a sweat from some of the things that I have saw and had to be part of. I get tired of people always saying we got it made. How many of them can go 48 hours without sleep and keep working. We are a brotherhood that stands together and only our brotherhood knows what we go through. I have seen some things that would make a buzzard sick and they tell me I got it made....God bless all Firefighters, EMS and law enforcement that put their lives on the line every day for someone else....

    ReplyDelete
  62. Beautifully written, thank you for all you do and writting about it. I, myself am a Nursing Assistant however, I don't ever want to have to see anything like that ever!!

    ReplyDelete
  63. 7 years as a paramedic, now an ER nurse. The ghosts never seem to go away; you always seem to remember the details so vividly, the sights, the strange smells and the screams. I don't mind telling the stories when someone asks, they are meant to serve as a warning to think about next time you do something stupid or to not take life granted cause it could be you next time. They're a reminder for me to spend as much time with my family and to cherish life, you just never know.

    ReplyDelete
  64. epic Story. I that Sums Up.Our Lives Perfectly. Strong stuff

    ReplyDelete
  65. I have 14 years on the job as both a firefighter and emt, and this is the most vivid, honest depiction of the scars we all bear. Well put brother!

    ReplyDelete
  66. Just want to say thank you to all who serve be it Fire/Rescue/Police/Armed Forces! You are all blessed and may God watch over you and keep you safe! My son is a Firefighter/Medic and I do not ask because I know what he does is very difficult and I don't want the details I just want him to be safe and to make it home to his family at the end of his day. Again God Bless each and everyone one of you!

    ReplyDelete
  67. I tell folks I just zone to another place. It's another life. I don't feel, I just help. but reading this, it was everything I could do not to feel and cry. I can't.

    ReplyDelete
  68. Long time out of the field (EMS/Rescue) for me. Still there are things I will always remember. Like many that have expressed similar thoughts here... It replays like a movie at times... Somethings I almost never talk about... but it's good to know we are not alone. That was then. Thanks for sharing.

    ReplyDelete
  69. I hope you find some comfort knowing that you have support for your bravery telling this story. Ellen, Ontario, Canada

    ReplyDelete
  70. God bless you. This makes me tear up and that's only one of hundreds for you. God bless you.

    ReplyDelete
  71. Thank you for sharing this. And thank you for all that you do every day. My son is 19, and he is a volunteer firefighter (he is working toward becoming a career firefighter). His first call was a terrible tragedy, and I worry about the ghosts he will forever have. Reading your post, and the comments from other firefighters helps because I know that he has all of his firefighter brothers (and sisters) who will understand when those ghosts are overwhelming.

    To all firefighters - words cannot even express my gratitude for all that you do, everyday. All that you have to give up, just to be there when someone needs you. And the scars that will never leave your heart.

    ReplyDelete
  72. Even before I joined the military I knew not to ask those kinds of questions. I hope daily for the strength for them to continue to do the job they do every day. The military, police, firefighters, emts, etc...know hell most of us will never know. So when we sit at the er and complain the doc is taking too long for our child with the sore throat instead say a prayer for the child that was brought in via helicopter that they're fighting to save.
    The world would be better if some people were allowed to say what needs to be said like he did here. Bless everyone daily.

    ReplyDelete
  73. Thank you. Thank you for putting it out there. Not being afraid to do so! My husband is a paramedic/ firefighter of 16 years.

    ReplyDelete
  74. This comment has been removed by the author.

    ReplyDelete
  75. Fucking awesome brother. Spells it out all nice and clear like for the uneducated and inexperienced. Peace

    ReplyDelete
  76. I learned at a young age you don't ask tese kind of questions. My grandfather was an UDT (now known as SEALs) in WWII. I asked him once if he had ever killed anyone up close, when I was about 8. My grandmother smacked the shit outta me, only time I ever heard of her doing this, that was usually his job. She said, "You never ask a veteran that, you never ask a police officer, medic, or firefighter (which is what he became upon coming home), that"

    ReplyDelete
  77. An old timer told me early on that if there is not reason to look at a face, you have no reason to remember it and haunt you in your sleep. Kids are hard.

    ReplyDelete
  78. Every time I lock eyes with a firefighter or police officer, there is an unspoken agreement: "I won't ask about yours, you don't ask about mine, but we both understand that each the other has seen things we wish we could get out of our heads..." the other half of the agreement is: "But if you ever want to talk about it, I'll try to be as strong for you as you will for me..." I'm a Marine Machine Gunner...

    ReplyDelete
  79. What would we do without people like you? Someone has to show up to dig the wounded out and save their lives. And someone has to be there to care for the dead. My heart breaks when I think of the sacrifice this requires of so many men and women—the emotional toll this takes on you can't ever fully be compensated with money or gratitude. I hope you can find a way toward peace.

    ReplyDelete
  80. Thank you for sharing, and thank you for the work you do. God bless you.

    ReplyDelete
  81. I have a couple of those places too. thank you for sharing yours, maybe it will help mine.

    AS for jackwads like him, I light off on them before they even get to that question because I don't want to open those doors again except with my brothers.

    Peace my brother

    ReplyDelete
  82. Or knowing that the building at which you are hacking away, breaking out the windows, cutting the roof, throwing out burnt debris, is someone's home or business. And they are watching. And you have to face them, maybe walk through the scene with them. Tell them that you and your crew did your best, even as all the tactical "what if's" run through your head.

    Yes you can make more money in the future, rebuild a structure, replace items. But it doesn't reduce the frustration and heartache.

    ReplyDelete
  83. Unless you've been there you really don't get it though. Middle of the night, roll up first on scene. One vehicle fully involved. The other is a van. Driver next to the car on fire, moves, not really alert. Move on with triage. The other three people turn ito 4. Didn't see the one laying on the ground at first, belly distended because it's full of blood. They say there are three others in the van still. Kid in the back seat holdig his leg screaming it's broken, and yes it is. passenger in the front seat able to respond by groaning. The driver...he's taking his last few breaths in front of me. Takes less than 30 seconds to see all that. Helicopters and extra ambulances called for. Start getting the most seriously injured patient ready to transport. There's a huge wooshing sound and everything goes dark. The engine arrived and got the fire out. Load up and get moving to the LZ after reporting off and transferring command. They got someone out who needed the helicopter more than me, so off to the trauma center we go, balls to the wall. head back to the scene to talk to the police. Sun is coming up. Tell him that my patient seemed to be the driver of the vehicle that was on fire and had been ejected. He was rough but he'd live. Well, they say...the driver is still in the vehicle. They had an idea of who it was, but couldn't tell for obvious reasons. We could tell that the driver died on impact. It was estimated that the car was doing greater than 80 when it hit the van. It lost control after leaving the road on a pretty wide curve. The driver over corrected. Of course if they had been old enough to have a drivers license in the first place they probably wouldn't have been travelling that fast in the first place.

    So yeah, when you call 911 for a bullshit reason that doesn't require goig to your regular doctor much less the ER, don't be surprised if I don't appear to give a shit about your ingrown toenail. I save the compassion for the people who need it.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thousands of accidents, some really suicides, 7000-ish total patients later, my well of compassion ran dry.

      There were days when we'd roll-out for our first extrication @ 2230, and 150 miles later shut the truck off @ 0545 the next day.
      Worst night was waiting calls stacked 2 deep and a request for a third call with ETA for another on the Interstate, three counties and 80 miles away.
      There were nights where we could get there, and would require fuel cans to be standing by, as we'd be nearly dry.
      This was a decade or so before 24 hour gas stations.

      There's the elderly - who ignored a need for medical attention, until it's nearly too late, and there's a half-inch of ice covering everything. The same elderly who were too much a PITA for the family to see three days ago.

      There's the suicidal, who would "catch a train"... and you'd pick them up over a quarter-mile. In 104ºF heat.
      The fishermen who can't swim.
      The ice fishermen who leave nothing but a floating glove, and you're in the murk, in the cold, under the ice. Fishing for men.
      There's the dozens of SIDs babies, and being punched by parents as you can't save a child who died an hour ago. Then thankfully the medical community figured-out how to keep them from dying of sleep apnea.

      There's the hundreds of induced abortions sent home to deliver, a decade later.
      There's dealing with the substance abused mothers, who wanted nothing to do with having a child, or recognizing that child that was, came from them.
      Denial, and a rapid return to paying for crack by selling the only asset, the only skill that remained.
      Her soul.

      I'm told it's all bullshit. That no one really does, or sees or copes with this.
      "IF and this is a real stretch, this is somehow real? Let the professionals do it. You obviously aren't one.
      Seriously, if I couldn't cope with doing this? And I have no regard for you?
      So you are less-than me?
      Then you are lying. As I'm obviously superior.

      Or, you have no skills, so shut-up, and do the menial clean-up tasks you're suited-for.
      You certainly can't hold a responsible job in an office, with administrative assistants, department heads, and managers. A job where you wear a suit and tie, and hang with the pretty people like myself."

      Those are the people who believe "the government will" solve every crisis, as they've never been a part of the solution.
      That "someone from The Government" or "someone from the Authorities" will sort all this out.

      There's no SHTF moment, that a call to 911, or your favorite politician can't fix, and I mean right now.

      We have, those posting here, seen it.
      All before.
      Twice.
      Occasionally twice today.

      ~ YankeeFarmer.

      Delete
  84. dont you just want to stick the images and and smells and the echos in theur heads for just 5 minutes and then they would know the pain

    ReplyDelete
  85. Thank you for this,.. As I try to type through the tears, I sometimes wonder why it took me so long to get counseling, diagnosed with PTSD and I will always see things. Once seen and done it cannot be undone. 24 years worth

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you for your service. I wish you all the love, support and healing in the world.

      Delete
  86. I am a 22 year medic with these same ghost, i dont want to forget nor do i regret any of it.

    ReplyDelete
  87. 31 years in the "business" before I retired. Right on man.

    ReplyDelete
  88. I work in medicine, but trauma exposure is limited. I like to ask medics about their most baffling or bizarre calls. The ones that make them laugh.

    ReplyDelete
  89. It all starts out the same at a party or gathering. This is my friend Bob, he's a cop, so you better watch yourself. Then the stupid stories of their life start, I got a parking ticket once, I think the cop was wrong, just because I was parked in a no parking zone next to the no parking sign, he didn't have to give me a ticket., Do you realize how much more they do, what they see? I never hear any other introduction like, this is Bill he works at a desk, you better watch your pencils.

    ReplyDelete
  90. Not much I can say to this, except thank you. And, you're an amazing writer.

    ReplyDelete
  91. I am more than happy to pay firemen (and women) a great wage to play "Checkers and coffee all day" because I know when they do get called out is it usually for something unpleasant. Just having them available if necessary, whether they are called out or not, is well worth whatever it costs to have them.

    ReplyDelete
  92. Thank you for your post! As a retired crime analyst, creator of The Children's Wall of Tears (www.thechildrenswalloftears.org), I felt every word you wrote. Thank you for what you do. Thank you! Jane LeMond-Alvarez

    ReplyDelete
  93. Mark - Beautifully written. I wish people could understand how stupid and uncaring those kind of questions are. I was an EMT/LPN for 10 years and and ER RN for almost 30. The ones we couldn't help are always there. God bless your for your service and may He dim the memory for you.

    ReplyDelete
  94. before I read this I was thinking about giving up my career in the fire service. ive been a firefighter since I was 16 I absolutely love my job but lately the death and destruction have really been getting to me but after reading this I realize that everyone has demons just like me thank you for sharing your story .

    ReplyDelete
  95. As a firefighter and paramedic who's "been there, done that" on a similar scene (drunk driver crossed a median and hit a single mom and her four kids), I can tell you she will never go away. Even if they re-surface the road, she will never go away. Every time you go past that spot, she'll be there. Trust me. That mom is there every third day when I go by on my way to the station, and it was March, 1996. There are nights I wake up and still smell the gasoline and radiator fluid. I REALLY hate those nights.

    ReplyDelete
  96. Choose your rate, choose your fate.

    ReplyDelete
  97. May God bless you with selected amnesia someday. I have helped on a few accidents until first responders arrive and the "little" horrors I have seen still haunt me and I always wonder, "Did they make it?"
    Two of my children are paramedics and one a firefighter (daughter) and I am amazed at how they are able to be there in the way you have described.
    There are not enough thank-yous and God Bless yous to express my gratitude for the work you do!

    ReplyDelete
  98. I salute each and every one of you - Military, Fire, Police, EMT etc.. (I know I missed a few). I am not in this line of work, but many of my friends and family are. You are the real heros of the world!!!

    ReplyDelete
  99. As a young man, considering going into the EMS/Firefighter fields, this was good for me to read. While I knew the job wouldn't be pretty, I did not fully grasp just how horrifying it could be. I wept as I read this. This honestly did not turn me away from wanting to join these careers, but just the opposite, made me feel a little bit closer to all who have served our falling country in one way shape or form. Thank you for this eye opening experience, May God Bless you all, and give you the strength and peace you need every day.

    ReplyDelete
  100. 30 years on the job-lost a very good close friend to an electric vault explosion, saw things I don't want to remember, was in places I didn't want to be but somebody has to do it & I choose to be that person, stood the honor line as they brought out several of my Brothers of the NYPD after 9/11,went to some many funerals of fallen Brothers I lost count, held newborn premature twins that were so small they fit in one hand, they survived and came to my retirement to say thanks-Would I do it all again-you bet because somebody has to do it & I choose to do it-the best job in the world FF/PM- but yet people still ask how much of my time was spent playing cards & eating good meal & how much my pension is.........God Bless All That Follow-just remember Be Safe......

    ReplyDelete
  101. My EMS is - animal ambulance - I can relate, though slightly differently. Yep - I'm just the taxi driver. Thanks for writing this.

    ReplyDelete
  102. Very moving story! And true! I remember the likes on the faces of the Apple Valley fire department when they responded to a car 'vs' motorcycle! Two biker were racing. Both going over 100 mph and the young lady that was hit died! I saw just part of what happened and wish I hadn't! To every firefighter, EMT and paramedic, thank you all for being the first to respond and for the love you show everyone, whether or not they are at fault!

    ReplyDelete
  103. 40+ years as a trauma nurse in ER. You are right the events never fade. Firemen, Paramedics, Police, Military, Nurses, and Doctors, EMT's your service to humanity can never be appreciated enough. The media can sensationalize while all of you handle it with compassion and skill. I am grateful for the experiences and that I was able to contribute to saving the ones we did.

    ReplyDelete
  104. My respect and may God keep you in safe waters. The really unknown heroes of everyday life...

    ReplyDelete
  105. Great read, awful story to tell. Those who have no clue, really have no clue. Thanks for all that you do to help keep us safe and being there when we the general public need you.

    ReplyDelete
  106. some people ask cos they care, some ask cos they want to pretend they are there same as pretending to be an actor in an action film,,
    its easier to joke, smile, and laugh about, to change the subject and hide the pain of memorys and loss, they couldnt understand they dont know what they want or what they are asking

    ReplyDelete
  107. Thank you for sharing...I get the same question its like people are amused by what you do but when you tell them the truth (for me its life in the ER as an RN) its always the same. You cant remember what the hell you had for lunch the day before but you can remember the color of eyes the 3 year old had that arrived 4 yrs earlier who died from being beaten to death by his parent. You remember the shoes the outfit and the smell of urine on the child but god for bid you remember where the hell you left your keys.
    Respect your Fire Fighters, Police, EMT, PMT, First responders, Military, and Health care workers for they are the ones saving your sorry ass when all you want to do is run in the other direction or vomit because of the scene is too awful.

    ReplyDelete
  108. I understand your horror at some of the things you have seen.

    I also feel your rage.

    You need to find someone/somehow to deal with this before it destroys YOU. Too much is bottled up, too many things you have that come out in rage and directed at some dumb drunk at a party. Find someone, please.

    ReplyDelete
  109. Nowadays peoples interest have become stranger website where you can see all this gore and more. if you are really interested in this do something positive and become an emergency worker, You will quickly learn that all of it is part of the job and all these people have loved one!

    ReplyDelete
  110. I used to be the guy in this story asking the questions until one day I saw an accident where a car drove off an overpass. When I looked down to see if he was OK his limbs were pointing in every direction and blood filled the pavement. I learned not to ask questions anymore and just tip my hat and appreciate people like you who do their best to save lives. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.

    ReplyDelete
  111. Hardcore and solid, beautifully written. I sleep sound at night knowing that an un-daunting force of Police, Fire, and Ambulance are always a phone call away. I just wrote my first book Still of Darkness, it will be available this week on Amazon. It is a non-fiction Paramedic thriller. I have been involved with law enforcement and spent the last 30 years on the streets as a Paramedic in Ca.
    If you found this article enjoyable and like the raw, straightforward truth you will enjoy my book.

    ReplyDelete
  112. I feel for you brother. I've been there too. Had my fair share in law enforcement and am glad those days are long behind me even though the memories will always be there. Don't bottle it up and let it eat you alive because it will. Write the memories out, talk about about them. Get them out of your system and make peace with the past. God bless you.

    ReplyDelete
  113. You pretty much summed it up. I've been in the fire service for over 20 years and I'm so tired of hearing you guys get paid to sleep (try having the bell go off at 2am and your heart immediately races to over 200 beats a minute), you're retirement isn't fair (you try working at a job where when you say goodbye to your family before leaving for your shift, you may not come home in one piece or may not come home at all). Walk one shift in our shoes then maybe rethink what you say!! So tired of these self righteous assholes thinking they have a clue of what it takes to be a firefighter or police officer. To all those that serve, God Bless you and continue doing what you do best!!

    ReplyDelete
  114. Powerful story. It's bad enough that small things like a random smell or a sound can trigger memories you'd rather not have, you don't need people dragging them out of you. I'm glad I read this because I did ask a friend of mine that very question once, he said "you don't want to know". I figured he was saying that he didn't want to talk about it so I dropped it. I have never asked that question again, I understood after the look on his face. Now reading this I know I was right on about never asking again.

    ReplyDelete
  115. I will never ask that question again. Yes, I am one of the stupid ones who grew up in Sunnyvale who asked that same question once or twice. But never again.

    ReplyDelete
  116. We get so caught up in everyday life and so tuned to a routine that we dont stop to think of others and their journeys. Today I learned just how small I am compared to real heroes like firemen and emts and law emforcement and military. Thanks for this.

    ReplyDelete
  117. I fell the same way. Don't ask because you don't really want to know and I really don't want to go through it again. Thank you for putting this out there to share with others. I am working through my own demons and have started a page on Facebook called Firefighter PTSD as a way to cope and to help my brothers and sisters. Thanks for sharing your pain, I stand with you my brother.

    ReplyDelete
  118. AFTER 37 YEARS IN THE FIRE SERVICE I GO THROUGH THAT VERY SAME THING EVERY DAY.

    ReplyDelete
  119. As the wife of a fireman I often remind myself that even though he's off duty it doesn't mean that everything he dealt with while on duty is forgotten. For most of us we can check our job at the door but for the men and women in this field it's not as easy.
    Thanks for sharing...Well said

    ReplyDelete
  120. God bless you and all of you first responders. I can't imagine how hard it is to do what you do everyday.

    ReplyDelete
  121. assholes like that think tv is reality, i rode the trucks for 15 year ending 20 years ago,some memories and some places still affect me. thank you to all the wonderful men and women who have the guts and drive required to do this difficult but essential wrk.

    ReplyDelete
  122. give all the people who do this line of work alot of respect because they see stuff that would make most people sick but they do the job and try to live with it the best they can hope they also remember all the 1s that they save not just the bad but the good that goes with it but sometimes talking about it can help vent you dont have to go into detail just say thay it wasnt good and not all made it just to get some of it off your mind

    ReplyDelete
  123. Ppl walk by and look and make a funny comment like "look our tax dollars at work” which I have heard many times walking with my husband and ask that same question. Who is a vol. Firefigter don't think bout stuff that any fire fighter, emt, police, or military person sees. I am proud of my husband my father and my twin sister(all three are firefighters) and all service ppl.

    ReplyDelete
  124. Powerful stuff.... my prayers are with you...

    ReplyDelete
  125. I didn't even have to read it. I live this every time I go to work. You know, in-between the coffee and checkers. Love you, man. Big time.

    ReplyDelete
  126. Thank you, I was a medic for 8 Years. I worked 4 volunteer services and 1 paid. When my unit collided with a work truck at a 4 way stop all I could see were his eyes. His ladder went through my door and burried in my seat. I packaged him and was transported in the unit with him. After reading your thoughts I know why I love and understand my husband so..... He is retired, disabled Army. I don't ever expect him to tell me more than he is ready .... PTSD bites but never give up, some do understand it's not all coffee shops and checkers. God Bless all and thank you ..

    ReplyDelete
  127. Wow! Very powerful. A huge thank you to you and all the other responders who live with these 'memories.' Every time I see or hear about these types of events, I say a prayer not only for the victims, but also the responders. God Bless every one of you.

    ReplyDelete
  128. I have been "off the street" for a few years now, but I still carry my ghosts with me. I expect I always will. I hurt for them...I hurt for those they left behind...I tell them I'm still sorry there wasn't more I could do. I thank them for the lessons they taught me - that I can be stronger than my fear, that I can give more when I don't think there's more to give, that I can go on when I don't think I can. Reposez en paix, mes vieux amis ...

    ReplyDelete
  129. Thank you to all those in the service, First Responders, law enforcement, for what you do for the rest of us. And the sacrifices you and your loved ones make for us every day.

    ReplyDelete
  130. Thank You, I hope people read this on my wall so they get it too....................

    ReplyDelete
  131. 17 years as a Police Officer. 28 years total in Law Enforcement and Corrections. I have so many ghosts in my head that I have to medicate to sleep. Unless you've been there, there's no explaining it. And there's always one DB who has never risked a thing for someone else who wants to live through your stories. PTSD and Depression are a bitch... Prayers of peace to all Fire, Law, EMT, and Military members.

    ReplyDelete
  132. I have been an EMT since I was 18. I'm turning 20 on Saturday. I have seen more tragedy and heartache then I can even mention. I lost many of my friends due to actions of their own stupidity and I will never forget responding to the calls...seeing their bodies mangled and torn apart or needles sticking out of them. it will always stay with me to the end of my days. people are so amazed that I'm able to do this but yet they still ask why I do what I do, especially when I miss holidays and birthdays with my family. I do it because I have to. if not me, then who else? it takes a strong person to be able to see blood, guts, and gore day in and day out. granted there are times where I have broken down and flipped out on people because they're asking too many question that hit home but I deal with it. not all calls are as tragic as this one...many of them have happen endings(I've delivered 6 babies in the back of my rig by myself since I got my license) but there are also many that end the wrong way. Firefighters/EMTs and other health care professionals do what we can to help others but there are times where it's not enough. we need people to stand beside us and to support us...not criticize us and say we should've done more. thank you so much for stating this story....it gives words to so many things I haven't been able to say.

    ReplyDelete
  133. I couldn't read it. Only part.

    Thanks for doing what you do. And I will never understand people who want details...who are crass and unfeeling and twisted to ask you to relive it by telling the story. assholes.

    ReplyDelete
  134. As a career firefighter, I have seen the best of people and the worst of people.....the most life touching and the most life shattering moments.....there is nothing like hearing the screams of a mother standing in the ER who just lost her baby.....NOTHING like it.....on the other hand, there is nothing like being one of the first people to lay eyes on a newborn baby girl born in a car on the side of a dark roadway, so small, fragile, and indescribably beautiful....so much death and life......so let them ask their stupid questions.....when its their time, they'll dial 911, and we will answer the call no matter what.....just like we always do.....again and again.......cause it's just what we do

    ReplyDelete
  135. I am a retired cop, I've got my own stories and I still get visits in my dreams of all the fatalities and death messages I've given. The first time I assisted the Fire Fighters on a fire, I realized I wanted no part of what they do! They may have some down time to 'watch TV, shoot pool etc' but they defiantly pay for it when they go to a fire! Give them respect for what they do, I'd rather dodge bullets! Thanks Brothers!

    ReplyDelete
  136. Preach on my brother. Stay safe.

    ReplyDelete
  137. I broke my back on the job 9 years ago. Every day I wish I could go back to help people. However, like your story I can remember every single detail about the runs that you always want to forget. The smells, the sounds, and even what happened step by step. The runs you want to forget, but are seared in your memory.

    ReplyDelete
  138. Holy shit, brother. So much of what you said echoes what I've said and thought and felt. Over a dozen years as an EMT and paramedic, and another quarter-century as a cop. I know EXACTLY where you're coming from, and I'm grateful to read what you wrote about it.

    ReplyDelete
  139. Next time someone tells you your day is spent playing checkers and drinking coffee, say "yep, lucky for you because it means im not scraping you off the pavement somewhere"

    ReplyDelete
  140. After 25 years on the streets in a busy EMS system in Massachusetts a injury sideline me for the rest of my life I worked in EMS because I wanted to make a difference. I like to think that I did. We didn't save them all and I saw a lot of what man can do to another man and no call was ever the same..... similar but never the same. The good and bad became a blur, it was my job when the call came in i went into business mode and did what needed to be done. Just like the author I had my share of screaming moms and kids in cars in pain and death but I also saw compassion and caring and people who do not give up on a patient even when everything is against them. The things people in the fire service and EMS see in one bad day would overwhelm the ordinary person for life. The men and women who are working right now in your community are some of the finest, giving and kindest people you could ever meet and they have a heart and they care. They have a tough job and they signed up for it, but do not think if you see them having some down time its like that all the time because it is not the norm ,once that call comes in for the MVA or shooting or baby come now they earn every penny they get paid. and they do this 24hrs a day 7 days a week. its a thankless job for the most part but everyday they put on the uniform and do the job. So before the next time you want to ask a firefighter or EMT what was the worst call they ever saw, THINK! Why don't you ask them what was the most rewarding call they ever went to. Try it sometime and then thank them for all that they do.

    ReplyDelete
  141. Ive rode a fire pumper for 22 yrs and rescue truck for 2 yrs i still remmember the facrs of the dead thats what joe citzen doesnt understand is we remmember those we couldnt save not the ones we did. We remmember the pretty girl who will never find her first love the young man who will never be a dad the baby who will never get a chance the smell of burnt fless the smell of brain matter the smell of blood the look when the light leaves a childs eyes and the cries of mothers sons fathers when reality hit them and we had to be the one who told them it feels as though you caused yhere pain like you let them down not even thinking about the fact that you almost didnt come home on this one the faces never leave you mind im glad most people dont have to see what my reality let them think it like TV

    ReplyDelete
  142. people never ask about the good calls
    i just remember the best when people are in major pain they look at us and say thankyou
    thats the best pay a volunteer emt can get
    GOD BLESS ALL WHO SERVE !!

    ReplyDelete
  143. My mom has been a nurse for 41 years. She spent 30 or so doing Flight For Life and the rest in critical care. She has told me some of the things she has been called to. I cannot imagine having to see those scenes every time she passes where an accident occurred. The sounds she must have heard, the smells, the gawkers, the helplessness, the panic, the families, the mothers, fathers and children.....even the family pet. To the people who have never done such work, they just don't get it. It takes a lot more than to "just tell a story." They truly relive it...every time! Whether it's by passing the scene of where it happened, seeing someone that looked like the one you tried to save, hearing familiar sounds from that time (there are many times), screams, engines running, horns blowing, antifreeze leaking, shattered glass everywhere. It's no different that asking a war veteran "Tell me, what was the worst thing you've ever seen." It was mostly ALL tragic. It's not easy to do that job and it most certainly IS NOT for just anybody!! On behalf of my mother, who is not doing that part of nursing anymore, and my father who was a Vietnam Veteran, please don't ask these people to relive those things. Save them from that pain and anxiety.

    ReplyDelete
  144. Thank you for all you do. I was engaged to a cop how he did it everyday is amazing to me. Stay safe and strong. Prayers for your safety sent out everyday to all of you who protect and serve us

    ReplyDelete
  145. We can all tell our sad stories and our worst stories. But remember!!!
    A good day is when you and all your brothers and sisters come out alive!!
    God has blessed us with doing something wonderful and he never gives us more than he knows we can handle. I am proud to call all of you brothers and sisters!

    ReplyDelete
  146. Sad thing, is all of us that have been in the business for any amount of time, have a similar experience.......both call wise and "tell me the worst story" wise.

    ReplyDelete
  147. I'm still green, just goin on eight years as an EMT moving on to my Medic, the one thing they never teach you in school, the one thing they never prepare you for is the reality. Sure you can spit out a trauma and medical assessment meeting every criteria on the paper but nthin in class, no pictures no story no made up scenario's performed with moulage on the strangers that became classmates that became friends that became brothers and sister can prepare you for the reality of the world. We all have ghosts I see mine everytime I look at my motorcycle or I drive past that curve, I hear the lady in my rig scream that she's dying and to help me. Every time I see the guy whose bike was scraped but he didn't know it, every time I see the other guys prostetic or the in loving memory patches on biker cuts. I remember people asking "hey were you there?" or "what was it like" I remember finding out that she was pregnant and that. I remember feeling like I should have, could have done more. We all have our ghosts, they never go away really, we just learn to cope and eventually we learn that we did everything we could. But we all have our ghosts.

    ReplyDelete
  148. F.F./Paramedic for 10 years. I seen things on calls that I'll never forget. So when I get the question. "you get paid well as a Fire Fighter. So I reply,
    " YES I do and I would be willing to work for free if you can clear my memories of horrific things ive witness. great write. thx

    ReplyDelete
  149. 8 yrs. EMT/FF Technical rescue Technician III, SWAT Medic, 5 yrs. Rescue/Recovery Diver, 9 yrs. volunteer rescue. had an old acquaintance ask me at a Civilian Christmas dinner (Of all places) seated elbow to elbow, "what's the worst thing you've ever seen") As I refused for the third time to answer him, he implored aw C'mon man We're bro's you can tell me. I said Ok then, "The absolute worst thing I have EVER experienced is someone asking me to tell a gory story at a Christmas dinner with NO concern for the people around him or my feelings." I promptly got up and left.

    ReplyDelete
  150. They will never understand us. They are incapable. That's why WE have to do the job. God bless Brother!

    ReplyDelete
  151. Very well put. I just finished a 20yr career. The memories carry on.

    ReplyDelete
  152. Been a firefighter/EMT since Jan. 2001, every time the tones drop, just as that little rush of adrenaline subsides, you think back... is this one going to be like that one...I dont know if I can take putting another 20 year old in a bag, telling a family there is nothing more we can do for there loved one, telling rubberneckers to keep going and thinking "if see this shit up close your gonna be a head case" We are sometime called cold and calloused, but if we dont see it as a "call" I dont think many could do it, 13 years a lot of shit wakes you up at night, not only the mental pain, but a lot of us have physical pain, people call me crazy because after 8 knee surgeries and possibly a shoulder surgery I have no intentions of giving it up, because my little bit of physical pain does not hold a candle to that pain of a person knowing a loved one is not coming home.

    ReplyDelete
  153. Over 33 years in law enforcement. Amen, brother. One study shows that over 40% of police and fire that retire suffer from PTSD. And it largely goes untreated. It took awhile when I got married for my wife not to push when I came home from work and she would ask "How was your day?" And instead of telling her a funny story, or a problem with a computer, etc. I would just day "It was just another day."

    I lived in the city I patrolled. Where civilians see houses, cars and people safety forces see only the ghosts of things that should not been seen, witnesses to the worst of what life can offer. We don't speak of them to outsiders. We don't share them because we don't want anyone else to carry our burdens. We hope that when we die the ghosts will die with us.

    ReplyDelete
  154. I am a dispatcher & although I am not on scene I am the one who these calls first hit & I call all the appropriate personnel to help. The worst comments I get are you have an interesting job must be neat.... Not neat at all to know that the person screaming on the other end of the line is in serious shape or has just lost a loved one.....

    ReplyDelete
  155. Thanks to all for your service, it takes an extraordinary human being to do what you do. Peace!

    ReplyDelete