Tonight I saw something I’d never hoped to see. On the street behind mine, behind my neighbor, a house caught fire.

We were watching TV when I heard the sirens. Not terribly unusual since we live just a mile or so from the aptly named Main Street, which as you can guess is the main thoroughfare from one end of town to the other. The weather is teasing us with a prelude to the expected weekend storm, and the clouds have been hanging low all day. The traffic sounds echoed throughout the night. We were even treated to the train’s whistling from miles away; a sound unheard on a clear day.

But tonight, the sound of sirens grew. They seemed not only louder, but more intense. A deeper desperation resonated with their closeness. I peered out my window, expecting to see nothing. Hoping to see nothing that would greet my prayers for others’ safety.

Instead I was accosted with the evil orange of two tall horns of flames licking their way into the dark sky. Dot and I stepped into our front yard and tried to listen to the chaos that was now less than a football field away. The fire gave a horrific color to the night; all shades of orange and yellow as they stretched wider and higher.

House Fire

By the sound of it, it was at least a three-alarm fire. Squealing sirens and heavy engines bounced off the low clouds and now, low smoke, giving unwanted life to my typically quiet neighborhood.

Less than five minutes after we were aware of its existence, the fire took the roof. In a crackling, creaking sound, with the hiss of fire hoses, the roof gave. And then we heard more cracking. Was it the windows popping? Or firefighters chopping their way in? We don’t know.

Traffic was being rerouted and many unfamiliar vehicles drove past our house, stopping often to catch the same view we had of the disaster. For nearly an hour we watched as the smoke blew thicker and darker, reflecting an unwanted rainbow of orange flames and red sirens and white searchlights.

For a moment, I thought I saw another house in peril. It was brief, and in the dark of night, I can’t be sure. But it’s possible this demon fire tried to take another victim.

It’s an hour later now. The smoke is gone, and I more clearly see the Ladder Company and Utility Company on their Cherry-Picker trucks, getting a bird’s eye view of what must surely be a sight better left unseen.

It’s the same Utility truck that cruised my street several times, making sure the boundaries of the fire were defensed. And now I hear a helicopter making its way to illuminate the ghostlike frame of what was just two hours ago, a home.

I’ll drive by the house tomorrow on my way to work. I’ll say prayers throughout my sleep.

But mostly, I’ll give thanks. I am so very thankful indeed for the men and women who put their lives on the line without thinking. Who respond because it’s their job. Who went into and around the fire so that Dot and I, and all the neighbors on my quiet little street can rest easy.

Dot’s Uncle Marc. My friend Tony. Firefighters. Paramedics. Officer Patrick O’Rourke. Policemen. All of you who put your life on the line one way or another. Every. Single. Day. Because this is the job you choose to do. And do it well.

Thank you.

And Frankly, My Dear… that’s all she wrote!

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Another TGIF
"What's the Word?" Wednesday: December 5, 2012
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