I’d like to make this a “regular” Ironfiremen.com post. I’d like to bring ya some controversy, some training thoughts or at least a picture of some half nudity ( I was called the “titty blog” earlier this season you know?). I can’t do that …. not yet …. I’m not “normal” at this point and I’m not sure I’ll ever be.
I’ve been giving it a lot of thought. I also know that you, my readers and followers; will only follow so much of my “preaching”. I have got to get back to somewhere close to what made you follow the site. It’s difficult to do. I WANT you to continue following because now I know that I have something very important to tell ya …. I wasn’t always sure of that…. I am now.
We’ve hit most every subject here on Ironfiremen.com over the years. It’s most often a topic around firefighter safety and/or saving our own…. that’s where my heart lies. To me, there’s not a more important issue to speak about. I’ve spoken of the “typical” MAYDAY on multiple occasions. As in when a firefighter finds him or herself in danger. Knowing where, when and how to call for help and to not be ashamed of it. We’re getting better at it.
I’ve added to the topic and written about a “personal” mayday in that we also need to call for emotional support. We need somewhere or someplace to “vent”. Someone to tell what’s on our minds. A place to share our emotions and feelings. The good and the bad. I’m not sure you understood what I was saying at the time but … PLEASE … read em again by hitting the links below….
Jack’s death has not been easy on me …. it’s the hardest thing I’ve ever encountered. I LOST MY BROTHER! Dad lost a son!
He killed himself in my dad’s home …. I was there. I seen it. I worry about what dad seen and had to do before I got there. I worry about the brothers and sisters who responded to our home for this type of incident. What they had to see and their knowing that it was “our” house and family member (Dad and myself).
I knew how to respond … as a first-responder but never thought I’d be there as a brother. Never thought about having to care for dad being there. My wife, my sister, my cousin …. friends and family. This was personal …. it was FAMILY.
I assisted in the arrangements. We took visitors, smiled, hugged and shook hands …. I didn’t want to. It’s what I was taught to do and what needed to be done. I had to “hold it together”. I slept in the basement, just feet from where Jackson slept every night. Feet from where he eventually took his own life. I say I slept but the honest answer is that I laid awake there every night … unable to sleep. Pondering, waiting for him to walk into that room.
Today / tonight is NOT all that different. I re-live those moments (many of which I can not share yet) with every breath. I think of it as “ground hog day” …. it will never end and forever haunt me.
I didn’t think I could but last week, I took a step forward. I returned to duty and I’ve never been so scared in my life!
Within 10 minutes of entering the station, we received a call (run). We were tones for a possible house fire. My mind was racing (for reasons yet divulged) . What would I do? How could I focus on the task at hand when my mind was somewhere so far away? Was I placing my members in danger? Could I make the right decisions? Would I do the right thing?
Luckily, the house was not on fire. The basement had flooded due to the rain and snow, The occupant had several cans of gasoline (and other flammable liquids) stored down there which had overturned due to the high water. The home had gas hot water and heat but luckily, the water level had snuffed out the pilot lights. We secured the utilities, pumped the water and vented the home/ It was an otherwise “routine” run but my mind was in a million places. It could have gone so bad so quickly.
We continued to run that day. One call after another. We caught a 5 vehicle accident involving an ambulance (with a patient on board) form a neighboring agency and ended the night with a 2nd alarm at a 1st due 9 story apartment complex. My nerves were shaken to say the least. It wasn’t an easy tour.
Can I talk to dad about it? About my fears? He retired with 30 years of service and the title of one of the best firefighters on the job. How about my Chief? Which one? Which has REALLY been there? Which would understand? Maybe they’d seize this opportunity to find the reason to get rid of me once and for all? No ….. I couldn’t share any of this with them.
E.A.P (Employee Assistance Program) …. what do “they” know about what I’ve seen? What I think and / or fear? They aren’t firemen …. they don’t know what we’ve seen …. what we’ve done. I had nowhere to turn. OR SO I THOUGHT.
Brothers and Sisters I’m telling you NOW ….. we DO have somewhere to go … somewhere to turn to … someone who’ll listen. I’m going to start talking about it a lot. I’m going to because I want YOU to know that they are there. THEY …. someone who UNDERSTANDS, and they are there for US!
I’m in a deep, DARK place in my life but I also know that I will pull through. I KNOW I WILL because of the support I have received … the support WE have.
There’s NO SHAME in it. TALK ….. SHARE YOUR FEELINGS. Your pain, sorrow, hurt and even joy. SHARE IT. …. LET IT OUT, it’s therapeutic. TRUST ME.
It doesn’t make us “less” of a fireman … it makes us STRONGER. It makes us BETTER!
I’m getting there … little by little. There’s not a day goes by that I don’t think about or miss Jack. He was my little brother … I’m supposed to think about him. I was here to take care of him. I may have failed.
I watched the Super Bowl last night … I don’t watch football …. Jackson did. I pulled for the Ravens. They were the “home” team and from what I can tell, the “underdogs” as well. That sums us up ….(me…you… Jackson) the home team AND the underdogs.
Well, we won. We won yet I’m still here. I’m still lost.
I’ll keep searching till I find what it is I’m looking for. Maybe one day, I’ll share it with you … I’m not ready yet. I’ll keep looking. Digging, scratching. I may never find it but I’ll look. My dad and mom found it …. it came to them … I should be so lucky.
Until then, I’ve realized that I have chosen to live. I had to. There’s no life without it and unlike Jackson, I realize how many people love, think about and depend on me. I’m in it for the long haul. The Paul Harvey commercial reminded me of that …. we ( I ) have a purpose….
The support I’ve received through this trying time has been overwhelming. The phone calls, e-mails, messages etc. The comments and concern about me and my entire family. What really got me was when they asked about the Buckaroo. How he was doing. Well, the honest answer is that I haven’t been here for him. We haven’t explained whats going on to him. All he knows is that his uncle Jackson is gone to be with Jesus and that his Paw-Paw isn’t around much anymore. It has to be confusing.
That’s another reason to get back into shape. So that my family can get back to “normal” as well. Of course, when I say “my family” I mean you as well. I sold most of my cattle. When I say most, I mean that I still own those that nobody else would buy … my long horns.
That means that the Buckaroo and I still have some obligations to fulfill. Our animals come first. So for all of you asking ….. THANKS. It hasn’t been the best of circumstances for him but he’s doing OK. I haven’t been “there” for him but I will be. Here’s a short video of us heading out to feed / water yesterday. I hope you enjoy it.
My other family …. I’ll be reaching back to them as well. Closer to my firehouse family … to the Brotherhood and to my wife and children. It’s ok to need and want to lean on each other in times like these. I know none of you will let me slip … much less fall.
Also please don’t forget to reach out if and when you need someone to talk to, WE ALL DO. Once again I’ll add some links that have been helpful for me … USE THEM.
Grief.com, Recover from Grief.com , The Sweeney Alliance,Firefighter Behavioral Health Alliance, North American Firefighter Veteran Network
I’m back on duty tomorrow and will update ya as soon as possible …. THANKS again for the support!!!
Stay SAFE and in House!