by Wayne C. Anderson
“Even the strongest of men can falter at this though. There are days when you just don’t want to go through with it. I figure we all need some help on those days.”
It’s not often that I tell stories about incidents that I have experienced as a firefighter in the City of Seattle. I have some really good ones but I sort of feel that sharing them is like having people over to show your family vacation slides. In other words: Boring. There was a rather humorous incident that I felt reasonably secure in writing down, however, and I was thinking that this is probably a good place to share it.
It was a sunny, yet somewhat brisk and clear afternoon in Seattle. A beautiful blue sky on a gorgeous fall kind of day. The sun was warming things up just a bit, making it the perfect kind of day for people to be outside and enjoying activities of exercise and the like.
I was stationed at Engine 34 in the Madison Park area of Seattle but on this particular day I had been called upon to serve on the Aid Car at battalion headquarters: Aid 25, stationed at 12th and Pine streets. I had a couple of partners on my engine company that were definite characters, Ray Tobin, an African American man who had a gentle spirit and was a philosopher of sorts. Then there was Robert Hope who seemed to think too much at times and on some occasions made way too much sense of matters to be socially acceptable in the Fire Department politics and things. Because I had been placed on the aid car, Charles Murphy from another company was moved in to take my place.
The day was a kind of lazy day at Station 34 but in the middle of this beautiful afternoon the alarm went off, the dispatcher said “man down” and gave an address – the door went up and the crew jumped onto the big red noisy monster of a truck and out they roared. Ray Tobin was the driver and Bob Hope was the officer in charge.
On the way to the address that was given, Ray drove through a neighborhood that had a curve in the road which was a bit blinded by bushes, houses, cars and things common to neighborhoods. You know. Well, around that curve, coming in the opposite direction was a guy on a motorcycle with a white helmet on who simply disappeared under the big red fire truck,
and the big red fire truck bounced because of what it had just run over! Ray brought that big baby to an immediate halt. His stomach was no doubt in his throat. He somehow couldn’t bear to look and said, “Robert you have to do this one!”
Robert leaped out of the truck only to find the motorcyclist standing up and talking with Murphy who had jumped off the rig as soon as it stopped. The rider was holding his new white helmet that was a bit out of shape and had a really neat black tire mark on it! Robert went to the drivers door of the rig and opened it only to find Ray Tobin in a state of shock. “How bad is it, Robert?”
“He’s okay, Raymond,” Robert calmly reported. “But I think he might need a new helmet. He’ll probably hang that one up on his wall for show and tell.”
So Robert called a Battalion Chief to the scene and left Murphy at the scene while he and Ray went on to the original incident of a “man down.”
It was a short drive to the other side of the neighborhood where Ray pulled the big red fire truck to another sudden halt. What they saw was a man sitting on the road with his back up against a car and the wreck of a bicycle in the middle of the road. Problem was – there the man’s leg was on the other side of the road from the man and the bicycle and the man who’s one leg is completely missing was holding his head.
I told you that these two men were characters. That’s just a reminder. Because of their original delay I came in a couple minutes after them on the aid car to this scene of a “man down.” Robert Hope jumped out of the big red fire truck while Ray Tobin was yelling, “That’s it, Robert! I quit! This is more than a bad day!”
Robert and I surveyed the situation and looked back at Raymond in the driver’s seat of the big red machine. He had his head down on the steering wheel. No grins were shown – they were felt on the inside though. I followed Robert over to the driver’s door of the big red fire truck and watched and listened as he opened the door and looked up at Ray.
“That’s it Robert! I quit! This is a day from hell and I’m not going through with it!” (Now, lest you get the wrong idea, Ray Tobin was no chicken. I fought fires with this guy while we both risked life and limb. This was simply a “day from hell” as Raymond so aptly put it.)
“Ray, take it easy, man.” Robert calmly challenged him. “The guy just fell off his bike and he has a prosthesis and can’t get up by himself. He’s a bit embarrassed about the whole thing so he needs our help here.”
By now I’m jiggling on the inside but you couldn’t tell it one iota on the outside. Ray didn’t want to believe it. But his head eventually came up off the steering wheel and he helped us get the man back to his leg and back on his bike and back on his way. Ray and Robert and I were better for it all. Seems to me like the rescuers were rescued.
Sometimes things happen that look really bad but aren’t really as bad as they seem. Better to hold on and see your way through it and see the results of your efforts. Even the strongest of men can falter at this though. There are days when you just don’t want to go through with it. I figure we all need some help on those days.
That is also why “men always ought to pray and not lose heart.”