Life of a Firefighter
This weekend, I had the chance to go back to my hometown for a few days. I had just finished off a brutally busy 24 hour shift driving the engine and headed back home to the sleepy little New England town where I was born, raised, and started my career. I rolled in to town at about 10pm and headed to the local watering hole for a beer with my dad. I hadn’t been home in quite some time, and I was excited to see some familiar faces, relax a little bit, and get away from the hectic pace of city life.
The place was typically half-empty when I walked in, and my dad was running a little late. I pulled up a stool, ordered my beer, and took stock of the other customers. It’s been three years since I left my hometown, and most of my friends have moved on, so I wasn’t really surprised that I didn’t know anyone in the place. A few girls looked sort of familiar, but one face in particular stood out to me.
A pretty brunette, in her late twenties, she was seated with her boyfriend and a few others to my right. She just looked really familiar to me, but for the life of me, I couldn’t recall how I knew her. I didn’t pay too much attention to it at first, not unusual to see someone vaguely familiar in this pub, we probably had a mutual friend or something. My dad and a few friends of mine arrived and we all started catching up on the small town gossip.
For some reason the brunette continued to distract me. I polled my buddies to see if any of them knew her, but no one seemed to have any idea. At this point I was really getting annoyed by this little mystery. I was sort of eavesdropping on her conversation, trying to pick up on any clue that might help me figure it out. She was really happy, she and her boyfriend had just moved in together, gotten a lab puppy, things were going really well in her life it sounded. No clues to her identity though, I decided to give up trying to figure the whole thing out.
Then she moved her arm.
I’m not sure how I even noticed, but on her forearm, next to a tattoo, were a few small scars. The memory came crashing back down on me.
It was a cold rainy night, on a back road. I remember the rain, it was the sort that soaked you the instant you stepped out the door. She was in the front seat of the car, grey, respiratory arrest, needle on the passenger seat. It was a pretty typical overdose, little Narcan, some oxygen, and she woke up in the back of the truck. I remember specifically how upset she was, crying, screaming, begging us to end her life. The girl, like so many others was hooked on drugs, and just wanted off the roller coaster that is addiction, even if it meant death.
I don’t know this girl’s story, but she seemed healthy, happy, and clean. Who knows what her life is like on a daily basis, addiction is a never-ending struggle, but in that moment she was just another happy girl at a bar.
One of the tough things in this line of work, is that you very rarely know what happens to the people you interact with. The people we serve, we meet on runs, you usually never see them again. It’s always said that you can’t keep score, how many live, how many die, good calls, bad calls. But it’s nice to know, that at least some of the time, things do work out.
I ordered another beer and got back to talking to my Dad, it’s good to be home.
Sean Peltier is the Chief of Operations for HeroPrep.com. He is a career Firefighter/EMT and works as a Fire Service Instructor.