‘The Falling Man’ Reminds Us of Fallen Patriots
AUTHOR’S NOTE: Here at Hoosier Access, we take a break from political news and opinion for one specific day every year – Patriots Day. What started as a single post from our founder six years ago on his experience as a new Capitol Hill staffer turned into a staff post in 2011 which was followed the following year by my first dedicated post. I was not in New York on this fateful day and I still struggle to comprehend what was experienced by those that were there. Although I have over 5 years of firefighting experience and have been in my fair share of fires, I have trouble trying to understand what those patriots experienced. This year, I offer these thoughts… -RKB
It is almost like you hear it before you feel it slap your face… the pure oxygen coming from an air mask that is attached to the tank on your back. 30 minutes is the average tank size but in a fire you can cut that in half. Adrenaline. It makes your heart beat faster and your movement more rigid but more importantly, it speeds up your breathing. You train to combat it. You train to control it. However, until you are in a burning structure on your hands and knees, you have no comparison.
Many firefighters hold off as long as they can to put their masks on even though it is against most department regulations. Some will put their mask up but will not turn on the flow of oxygen until they absolutely have to. I have done it. In fact, almost every firefighter I know has done it at one time or another. Skirting regulations to the safest extent possible. They know how valuable the minutes in that tank are and they know that if they should find someone, that person will need the air more than they will.
Firefighters, like most public safety organizations, operate on the mantra of “Go home safely at the end of your shift.” However, their profession is the very definition of laying ones’ life on the line. I had a Captain who used to say, “We face fear so that others don’t have to. We sacrifice our bodies and minds so that others can survive.”
This mindset… this approach to a job of public service flows in and out of every single man or woman who has ever pulled bunker gear on. Every single man or woman that has pinned a badge to their chest or thrown a stethoscope around their necks. At the end of the day, the best descriptor that I can come up with is simply: Selflessness.
Today is a somber day in our great country. We all pause to reflect on the terrible horrors of September 11, 2001. This day holds some memory for every American of every background from every state of every age. It could be something small like hearing conversations at the dinner table but being too young to comprehend or sitting in Spanish class when the phone rings and your teacher starts to weep uncontrollably and immediately turns the television on against the principal’s wishes. It could have been from hearing the breaking news report from your car radio or even sitting by the phone hoping and praying that your loved one would call and you would hear the words, “I’m alright.”
However, for 2,996 families the memories are different… for 2,996 families that call never came.
343 firefighters demonstrated selflessness that day. Standing in front of Hell itself, 343 firefighters still made the decision to run headlong into the flames… the carnage. Without hesitation, among the screams and yells and smells, these 343 looked at each other, placed their helmets on their heads and faced fear so that others did not have to…they sacrificed their bodies and minds so that others could survive.
A certain image has gotten a lot of attention this year. It is referred to as “Falling Man.” It shows a man falling from one of the towers on September 11th and is a powerful sight. Out of the 2,996 deaths attributed to the attacks on September 11th, 2001, not one was listed as a suicide. These 2,996 homicides shook the confidence of all Americans but it did not break it… it strengthened it. Whether it was firefighters and paramedics, police and the military or school teachers and elected officials, Americans did not falter in remembering the sacrifices made by those Patriots that day.
The capacity that we have as humans to contain and comprehend pain is simply amazing. What is more amazing is the capacity that we have demonstrated to transfer that pain into conviction and belief. America is stronger than it was on September 11, 2001. While we all wish that 2,996 people could be with us today, their deaths were not and are not in vain. God Bless the fallen. God Bless the protectors. God Bless the United States of America.
Rob Burgess is a communications professional who lives and works in the Greater Indianapolis area. The views and opinions expressed herein do not necessarily represent the views of his employer(s), past or present, nor that of HoosierAccess.com. You can find him on Twitter by searching for @rkburgess.