Hi All! Cynthia D’Alba here again bringing another outstanding guest blogger to visit us! Today, we have the pleasure of welcoming A. Catherine Noon today. So glad to have you, Catherine! Take it away!
I asked my brother-in-law what makes a fireman different. He laughed and said it’s the fact that most people run out of a burning building, they run in
Of course we like to read about the sexy heroes and daydream about them coming to our rescue. I feel more pensive today and figured I’d share a couple anecdotes about my aunt. I know she’s not an alpha male, but she fits the label of hero and shows us why we like to read about them so much.
My aunt was a fire fighter her entire career, from the 70’s through the early 2000’s. She was tall and skinny and I loved to hang out with her because she liked the same kind of things I did – books. An English major in college at U. C. Berkeley, at a place and time guaranteed to make one political, she decided to become a fire fighter.
Over the streets of Berkeley, California, my aunt and her mates waited for the call. She worked amazing shifts, which sounded glamorous to me as a kid – 3 days on, 4 days off, 2 days on, 1 day off. The “day” she was on meant 24 hours a day – they have a dorm at the fire station. I imagined them fighting fire after fire in a flurry of conflagration that, if real, would have burnt the city to the ground in, oh, a month. But to my naïve imagination, it sounded fantastic.
The reality is a lot more prosaic and, in many ways, more scary. I asked her what her days were like on the job and she said it was a lot of cooking. Cooking? I must have looked horrified because she shrugged and added that they did a lot of paramedic calls. It’s Berkeley, after all.
I didn’t know what she meant.
(Hey. I was young and sheltered, what do you want?)
The bulk of their work was rescuing people in medical emergencies, anything from traffic collisions to drug overdoses. One day maybe fifteen years ago, she hadn’t heard from her long-time boyfriend. They’d stopped seeing each other but were still friends and it wasn’t like him to not call. She finally decided to go over to his apartment and found him dead on the floor of a heart attack. She told me he’d pushed up the sleeve of his shirt, and that it must have hurt him as he had the heart attack.
It wasn’t until that moment that I realized what “hero” means. It’s not all romance and chocolates. It’s the sure, calm knowledge of how things can go wrong and how to fix it. Sometimes, it’s the knowledge of what went wrong, even when there’s nothing to be done anymore.
My brother-in-law is following in her footsteps in Philadelphia. There are hundreds of brave men and women across this great land of ours, putting their lives on the line and learning what it takes to be a hero. To them, I say, thanks.
“It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are.”
– E.E. Cummings
Check out “Taking a Chance“, part of the Charity Sips 2012 to benefit NOH8, available from Torquere Books.
Watch for TIGER TIGER, coming July, 2013, from Samhain Publishing.