No, this isn't going to be that kind of post. Sorry, ladies.
This is about how my respect for first responders has grown. It's one of the things I thought about first when I saw the pictures after Hurricane Sandy of a whole region of people traumatized by nature's fury. I listened to the journalists talking about first responders fighting impossible conditions to do their job, leaving their own devastated homes behind, and thought again how society is fortunate people freely choose this taxing profession, investing their time and talents to learn how to save others' lives and property. Their jobs are not easy, but they have great potential for good even in the smallest everyday rescues.
Several years ago my good friend accidentally locked her keys and her baby in the car and in a panic had to call 911. The firemen came and calmly got her precious baby out of that automobile, and then they felt the child's forehead.
"It's OK, ma'am," one of them said to my friend as he handed her daughter over. "She's not even hot yet."
It was over in a manner of minutes, but as the firemen left my friend gazed after them thinking, My heroes!
And that's what happens, you develop a hero-worshiping complex once you've experienced first-hand what these steady souls are capable of. You see a group of them shopping in the supermarket and you nudge your kids, so you can all stare at them sidelong and knock into the soda display with your shopping cart. You want to say, "thank you for your service", but that doesn't seem quite right, and you don't expect they'd accept your kids' Halloween candy as a token of gratitude, either (though you wish they would).
It's a selfish thing, but my own admiration for these heroes-in-trade increased a thousandfold when my family had need of their skill. Forgive me, I'm going to use those words again. After the accident I heard them comfort and calm my children, and to me it was miraculous how quickly my children went from emotional anarchy to talking about their teddy bear and seat belts. The firemen's cheerful tones calmed me as well, and my trust was complete when they told me, "Ma'am, we're going to remove your children from the car." I never saw their faces; all I remember is voices, cheerful, kind, capable voices.
Since then I've run into a couple of women who told me their husbands are firemen, and I went all gushy, asking them to please thank their spouses for what they do, telling them what a great thing they did for my terrified kids.
I can't ever repay them for what they gave my family in our time of need, and that's not the point. All I can do is thank them and then thank God that they do what they do so exceptionally well.