I watch the news every night at 5 p.m. The lead story on Monday stopped me in my tracks when I heard that layoffs are coming for the Anchorage Fire Department. As the wife of a firefighter, I was surprised, then worried, then agitated.
Why? Who? Questions buzzed. What if it’s us? What if we lose our main source of income? What will we do? I quit my job last year to stay home and raise happy, healthy children. Will that change? What about other members of the fire family? I shot off a few tweets on Twitter, a few posts on Facebook, then loaded the kids in the stroller, grabbed our black lab, Chip, and went for a walk, a really hard walk.
We got home and I did the usual routine of opening the garage door, getting Chip into the backyard and the kids unloaded. As I was going through this routine, I noticed my husband’s duffle bags from work stacked on the floor of the garage. This is nothing new. He has to transport his gear on occasion. I’ve walked past his gear many, many times. Tonight, I stopped and looked inside.
One bag had his company issue navy tee-shirts, his pillow and sheets. The other bag had his turnouts and helmet. I took his helmet out and looked at it. It's dirty, really dirty. The US Flag, his union sticker and last name are on the back. A wood wedge is attached for quick access. His visor has a tiny crack on the right side.
Oh, the stories that helmet could tell. Fires, suicides, homicides, deadly car accidents, heart attacks, strokes, you name it, that helmet has likely seen it. I stood there in the garage, looking at my husband’s gear, reflecting on what he, his sisters and brothers do every day.
Those given the privilege to serve on the department are fathers, mothers, sons, daughters, brothers and sisters. They run toward danger, death and dirty, unthinkable situations when everyone else is running away. They do it shoulder to shoulder, protecting each other and showing no fear.
In that moment, my anger and worry about the job cuts went away. The fire family has been through this before. How did they get through it? They survived by standing shoulder to shoulder, by protecting each other and by showing no fear.