While everyone is getting ready for barbecues, fireworks displays, and drunken revelries in lieu of actual commemoration and remembrance of our nation’s birth 240 years ago, me and my family in blue are preparing for a more solemn, heavy hearted anniversary. Five years ago we took the call, sent the responders, and tried desperately to save the life of one of our own. For the sake of respecting his memory and the feelings of all of us left behind, I won’t go into the details of his end only to say that it was an unexpected and shocking tragedy.
For the rest of you, take a moment to appreciate not only the physical but mental and emotional strains that emergency service puts on all responders. Cops, Firefighters, Medics, and Dispatchers spend five days a week or more dealing with the absolute worst every day. We handle trauma after trauma day in and day out with no real respite beyond our day’s off and even then, the ghosts still follow us in our hearts and minds wherever we go. My father was a cop for over thirty years and has been retired for the last two. I can still see it sometimes, in the look on his face whenever he hears something on the news or shares a memory. I’ve seen the same look in my own reflection and in the faces of friends who work in the life with me.
We live our lives, it often feels, within the confines of a station house or a vehicle managing one tragic scene after another. We sacrifice so much in terms of family and relationships to answer a calling and at the end of the day it takes a heavy toll from most of us. If you know someone who needs help, reach out to them. All it takes, sometimes, is a kind gesture to bring a person back from the brink. Don’t perpetuate the stigma that those suffering from depression are just nuts or weak. Talk about it and fight it the way you would any other chronic, potentially fatal disease. It’s no different than AIDS or cancer. It’s a real danger that can strike anyone and that can leave a trail of broken hearts and unanswered questions forever in someone’s life.
There was a professional antagonism between us. We tried, it seemed, to drive each other completely insane from 2 to 10 every night. There were times when I wanted to reach through the radio and slap you in the back of your head. There were lots of times though when you came in on your meal break and shared dinner with me. You pulled me aside more than once, out of earshot from others in the room to make sure that I was okay after a nasty call. You were like a big brother in some ways, so annoying but at the same time so kind and compassionate. You made it so hard to be mad at you. While there might have been a time years ago when I would have found this hard to say, honestly, I miss you and I wish you were still here. I hope you’re at peace wherever you may be.