My sister and I practically grew up in our dad’s fire station. We’d stop by after school sometimes, before going to homecoming dances, to make dinner for the firefighters with our mom and, more often than not, for absolutely no reason at all. Hanging out at the fire station was simply a part of life.
There’s something special about firefighters, like police officers and soldiers. There’s a brotherhood–a type of fraternity almost (one where women are allowed). Think about it. There aren’t many professions where you literally put your life in the hands of your coworkers to protect, serve and save people you don’t even know. They’re family and, in many ways, our extended family. Some of my dad’s coworkers are like my uncles. They watched me grow up.
My dad knew he wanted to be a firefighter ever since he was a little boy. He’s one of the few people I know who made his childhood dreams come true. He’s also one of the few people I know who genuinely loves his career. Thirty years after my dad entered the fire academy, he still enjoys what he does. And that, my friends, is how I define success–not a six-figure salary.
Soon my dad will be retiring and our impromptu trips to the fire station will inevitably become less frequent. When it’s all over, I’ll probably cry a little bit (I’m not sure why I’ve become quite sentimental in my old age). This will be the end of an era.
A while back, my dad was referred to as the Iron Man of the fire department, in reference to Cal Ripken Jr.‘s streak. I’ve met Cal a few times (yes, we’re on a first-name basis, even if he doesn’t know it) and he’s a great baseball player, obviously, and a nice guy as well. I suppose they’re both heroes in their own right, but if you ask me, there’s a huge difference between playing baseball and saving people’s lives.
I know that my dad is my hero and he probably doesn’t hear this enough, but I just want to thank him and people like him who put their lives on the line for total strangers every day. They don’t do it for the money (there are higher paying jobs, for sure) or the recognition (there are far more glamorous careers out there), but they do it because they love it.