, Salem, MA

April 5, 2014

Letter: Firefighters are a special breed

The Salem News

---- — To the editor:

When I was a little girl, my family watched in horror as the shoe factory by the overpass on North Street (where HMA Car Care is now) burned to the ground. I remember being mesmerized by the pretty colors of the flames and the beautiful ice sculptures. When I asked my dad why everyone watching the fire seemed so scared, he told me it was because the firemen (there weren’t female firefighters then) were having a hard time putting out the fire because it was so cold outside that the water was freezing as it came out of the hoses. Looking back, I remember thinking how cold their hands must be.

When I was older and in my first apartment, I watched as the Masonic Temple became engulfed in flames. I can still remember the tears and fear I felt with each siren that went screaming by. Feeling frightened and helpless, I said a prayer the nuns taught me. It’s the prayer I still whisper every time I hear a siren go by. To this day, I still wonder what must be going through their minds as they suit up.

And then on my way home one day, I came upon an accident by Memorial Park that involved a young child. There was a fire truck and cruiser at the scene. As I walked closer, I saw Ducky dressed in all his firefighter gear, crouched down on the sidewalk with his arm around the sobbing mom, comforting her with such calm and tenderness. It’s a scene that still touches me after all these years.

A few years later it was my turn to be rescued, not from a fire, but from a car wreck. While my body was going into shock, I could hear the police officer telling Bobby, the fireman, to get me out of the car. (The ambulance was operated by the police department back then.) Because I’d been screaming about my back hurting, Bobby wanted to get me on the backboard before doing so, something I, a nurse, appreciated.

Growing up in Salem and working at the local hospital has allowed me to meet and work alongside some pretty special people. But I have to admit, the firefighters are my favorite. Maybe it’s because they’re take-charge kind of folks who, despite sometimes horrific circumstances, do their job with kindness, compassion and integrity. They all seem to have that special way about them that makes you feel that everything’s going to be all right. They take pride in and value what they do, and they do it in a most professional way.

Being a nurse, I understand the desire to help people. But what I will probably never understand is what makes someone willing to run through fire to do so. They’re a special breed, these firefighters are. And I’m so grateful to them.

My condolences to the Walsh and Kennedy families and all who grieve for them.

Kathy Robbins