Some Saturday mornings, you really should be packing for your SAR overnight training, but you find yourself at your husband’s volunteer fire department, wiping wax off the rescue truck.
And when a 9/11 Memorial truck pulls into the bay, you stop what you’re doing and you struggle to hold back tears, right alongside the husband-who wouldn’t cry if you dropped a Halligan bar on his toe.
So you stand there, surprised by all the emotions you feel as you read the names on the doors, the men who knew they could die that day, as they knew everyday, but probably didn’t think they would. The FDNY baseball hat the lieutenant tossed onto the seat as he geared up and left the cab is now encased in glass, a monument to a moment long ago.
You back up and watch the guys, and girls, of the Albion Fire Department, all volunteers, wash and wax that dented truck with greater care than you could imagine. You watch a young guy, who was probably about 5 when the towers came down, climb underneath it with a brush, and hand-scrub the road grime from the mudflaps, covering himself with it. You swallow the lump in your throat as you watch your husband, who spent last Sunday on a roof at a house fire, go over the chrome and the steel with a soft cloth. You can’t imagine what is inside his head.
But you know what’s inside yours, as your search dog lays obediently in an empty bay next to the truck. You know that this rescue truck, FDNY Rescue 4, was put back together with pieces and parts from other trucks, like Rescue 3 from Harlem, which also didn’t make it back that day. You know that this is not just your legacy as an American, as a human, but as a search professional.
And you know that you are on holy ground, so you pray the Orthodox prayer for the departed, you make the sign of the cross and you venerate the shield on the door.
You pray too, that we could one day understand that we are all the same, we bleed when we die, we cry for our dead and our souls live forever.
When you go home to pack for your overnight, gathering your SAR ready pack and your kits, your ropes and your PFDs, you take a little more care than normal.
Because everything matters.