1800 hrs.

Night shift started at 1800 hrs. but most of us came in an hour early. The ones who didn’t came in even earlier. Didn’t want to miss anything. After turning in the pack, relieving your man and telling your officer, “I’m with you,” we would gather in the day room and talk. It never took long for things to go downhill, and our favorite targets were the slobs going home and the slackers relieving us in the morning. When we grew tired of picking on people who weren’t there we would pick on each other.

Never have I laughed so hard, or so freely as I did at those tables, when grown adults tasked with keeping our community safe were behind closed doors where nobody could hear us, and we were able to just be ourselves, and do what people who knew all to well how quickly it all could change do.

We kept it light, and waited for the bell to tip, made dinner, made fun of dinner but ate it all anyway, cleaned up after ourselves until one by one the group moved on, some to call home, some to call it a day, others to stand on the ramp and solve the problems of the world.

When it was time, we all got back together, put on our gear and out the door in less than a minute, ready for whatever waited. When whatever it was that called was done, no matter how difficult, we came back home, sometimes talked a little, sometimes just went back to the rack to wait for the next one.

Or morning. Whatever came first.

Life in the firehouse is a life like no other. To experience it is to experience how to live.

Really live.

The Mount Pleasant Avenue Station, home of Engine Co. 15, The Highlanders.

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