Firefighters. Victims. Representatives from both groups spoke at the World Burn Conference in Providence (RI) yesterday, and their stories are both horrifying and inspirational.A burn is by far the most painful injury I have ever sustained, and most of the dozen or so burns that I suffered were little things, annoyances mostly, and the pain was gone in a day or two, and I have some battle scars to show for the misery. Not these people. One firefighter lost an arm after being electrocuted, another was badly burned when flames caught him and as crew while they were on the second floor of a fire building. Two of the crew were killed, the survivor helped drag one of them out of the inferno.
The Station Nightclub Fire in West Warwick, RI was responsible for the death of 100 people. The survivors are scattered around the area, and the scars they bear offfer an ocassional reminder for the rest of us who cross their paths every now and then. I never know whether to ignore the disfigurement, acknowlege it, or ask the person with half their face gone, or their hands little more than stumps how they are coping, and wish them my best.
Then there are the people that nobody knows about; the ones who were burned by themselves, in one of the hundreds of "little fires" that happen. There is no brotherhood of firefighters for these folks, no fund set up for them, its just them, and whoever in their lives cares enough to be there for them. Theirs is a lonely fight, but no less of a fight than the battle waged by those with a support group behind them. There is no financial backing for prosthesis, or grafts, or therapy. They were burned alone, and they suffer, alone.
At the World Burn Conference, all burn victims are welcome, and for a little while at least, all victims of life altering burns are equals. Thoughts and prayers for all who visit my city this weekend, please enjoy your stay, and enjoy your lives to the best of your ability. For me, and most people your courage is inspirational, whether you are a firefighter, a victim of a mass casualty, or simply a person who got burned.