Thank you Scott Ellis!
The firefighters I worked with and write about are among the kindest, fiercest, accepting and dignified people I have ever met, this story from Scott makes me proud to part of the fire service . . .
Several years ago my wife Trish and I had a nice weekend roaming Connecticut’s quiet corner. We had attended my nephew’s wedding on the shore (yes he is a firefighter too) and scheduled a mini getaway along with it. Our two youngest children had yet to be born so we had a little “us” time to cash in.
We wandered into a small winery in the northeast corner of the state and sat at the bar for a tasting. The bartender was a very personable happy guy, someone you couldn’t help not liking, you had no choice but to talk with him, you wanted too. We were the lone visitors and like long lost friends, we shared all the details of our lives. Among all the other bits and pieces of each other’s lives, my wife mentioned I was a firefighter.
Our new friend’s eyes lit up. At this point, he came out from behind the bar and embraced both of us with a bear hug, one of us in each armful. He was an imposing figure, well over 6 feet and at least 275 (think Cam from Modern Family). He smiled ear to ear and announced that “this big old queen is going to tell you about MY Firemen”. My wife’s eyes met mine with a snarky half-smile, she had heard enough ‘firemen” stories to know it would be interesting for sure.
Our new friend related a Friday night a few years back in his Providence Rhode Island Apartment. He had been having a few glasses of wine and not eating nearly enough. He tripped and fell into a glass-topped coffee table, his arm and side pretty badly cut up from the fall. He managed to call 911 and waited for help. The “help” arrived in the form of “HIS” Fireman. He could not say enough about the firemen from the “pumper truck” and the “rescue”. His Fireman was amazing, the best care, empathy, and professionalism.
Our new friend did however relate some underlying fear he had. He was a gay man surrounded by all these “obviously macho firemen”, what did they “think” of him? The ride into the Emergency Room allayed any fears he may have had. His fireman held his hand and assured him he was going to be ok. His fireman talked of his family and they chatted the whole ride into the ED. Our new friend said the way he was treated by the firemen was as imporatnt as the treatments adminsitered by them.
Once at the ED the crew of the rescue didn’t leave him until he was settled in an ED cubicle. He thanked his fireman and assumed that was the last time he would see his hero.
Fast forward a few weeks into a local Stop and Shop. Our new friend relates how he sees his fireman in line with his family. He takes a moment to again relate how quintessentially “fireman” he looks even out of uniform, the fireman mustache, the “I got this” swagger. He hesitated to go over, worried all the empathy had been nothing more than professionalism shown to a patient, his worry about being a gay man resurfaced.
He risked it.
His “fireman” beamed ear to ear as he introduced him to his wife and kids, the bond was sealed. At this point, our new friend abruptly stopped smiling and took on a very serious tone. He looked at both my wife and me intently and said “this is why no one, anywhere, anytime can say ANYTHING bad about my firemen, you are all MY firemen, my heroes.
I felt embarrassed, I had to turn away, one of his fireman, one of his tough heroes was tearing up.