This "fear" is rooted in what we may have to see on the job. No doubt, the two worse sights would be any death that involves a child and anyone that is found subsequent to extinguishing a fire and finding the victim complete burnt. While there is no doubt that this job would force us to come to terms with someone's passing, there is a big difference between these calls. That's why I refer to these terrible instances as, "tragedy calls." Strangely, in my short eight-year volunteer career, when my injury took me of the "line," I had dealt with both instances and sadly, a couple of times with each one.
On a normal call, when were' finished we pack up the hose, ladders, ropes, etc. and had back to the barn. Upon arrival back to our station, there's a lot of back-and-forth cajoling and boisterous story-telling. However, when returning from a "tragedy call," we return and go about our chores without the joking and boisterous chatter. And for those of us who have answered several of "tragedy calls," we may say differently, but in reality, it never hurts any less.
This one aspect of our chosen vocation or avocation can carve a very deep chasm in our personal psyche; sometimes to the point where it affects who we are as a person and of course, as an effective fire-rescue member. Yet, far too many of us who have gone through this change, have buried it deep and far away. We don't want to talk about it with anyone. Not our spouse or partner, not our chief, captains or colleagues.It sits there, eating away at us like a cancer.
In researching the material for my book, "Fish Out of Water: Two Jewish Guys in a Deep South Firehouse," I found that the term post traumatic stress disorder was first used by the American Psychiatric Association in 1980. For the next five years or so, it was used to describe how many of our brave men and women who had been returning from service in the Far East, were suffering. Family members and friends were saying things like, "He's not the same as he sued to be," or "She wakes up screaming at night from nightmare she's having about a bombing in a small village."
As I've stated above, we too have seen many terrible things. However,in 1979 one incident eventually led to how the reality of what we see can chage us. On May 25, 1979, American Airlines Flight 191, a DC-10, took off from O'Hare Airport on its flight to Los Angeles.Within minutes, it had come apart and crashed in a fireball, killing all 258 passengers, 13 crew members and 2 civilians on the ground. As one firefighter put it:
"We didn't see one body intact, just trunks, hands, arms, heads, and parts of legs. And we can't tell whether they were male or female, or whether they were adult or child, because they were all charred. Another first responder on the scene stated, "It was too hot to touch anybody and I really couldn't tell if they were men or women. Bodies were scattered all over the field." (From Wikipedia.com)
From my book:
Stay safe and let's make sure everyone goes home.