Specialist teams at work to recover dead bodies

Rescuers know it well: by doing what we train for, we can profoundly affect the lives of people that we, in all likelihood, will never see again. Less obvious are the unseen effects that extend far into the future. Let’s find out with Michael Morse, who is going to recount to us his amazing experience.

I still tell the story of the Warwick (R.I.) firefighters who were called to my parents’ home when my father’s battle with terminal cancer was nearing its end,[   ]. At the time I was in my early twenties, full of myself, and confident that I could overcome whatever came my way.

Yet I couldn’t handle what happened that night, with my father hallucinating in the living room and my mother incoherent in the kitchen. I was lost. My brother and sisters were lost. A year of sickness and grief came crashing down, and we had nowhere to turn.

So we called for help. It came first in the form of a fire truck. Three firefighters entered our home, assessed the situation, and took control of the situation and our lives which, until then I never would have allowed. It was as if a cloud of compassion entered a war zone, and the fear, uncertainty, and near panic was immediately dissipated.

After the paramedics arrived, I was able to stand aside, take a deep breath, and feel my heart begin to beat normally. I watched the crews carry the people who brought me into this world, this home, and this life out of our house. I knew that they were with capable people who cared, showed compassion, and treated my parents as if they were their own.

That day was thirty years ago, but it is as fresh in my mind as if it happened yesterday. I bring the responders who came to my parents’ home that night with me on every call. It doesn’t matter if I consciously recall their exact actions, their faces, or their expertise. The essence of their presence is all I need.

Those people, long retired, live on through the deeds they did that night. I know that I am only one of thousands whose lives intersected with theirs. For me, it was a moment of grace in a tumultuous time. The experience left an indelible imprint on who I thought I was, and how I conducted myself. It was a relief to know that I was not ultimately responsible for everything, and that I could depend on others when things got too difficult to manage on my own.

Keep that in mind when you are called to duty. Take a moment to think about the timelessness of what we do. We have the opportunity that few others have. Your actions become part of a family’s history. It also reflects who you are. What you do is woven into the fabric of humanity. Never take for granted the effect you have in this world, because it is real, timeless, and amazing”.

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