The characters are not mine. I am only borrowing them. This story is not written for profit but for entertainment purposes only.
There are calls that will remain with you forever. The recesses of your mind can hide what your conscious mind can't handle. What I sometimes forget is that you can never truly forget. The memories will come back to you. Sometimes when you least expect it the memories will be brought to the surface. It has always amazed me how a sight, a smell or a sound could bring back the memories with such clarity.
The smell of rain or the clear evening sky brought me back home. Home was filled with memories of heartache and pain, but it also had moments of shear joy. Those would be the moments spent with my mother.
Not all memories were good…some were filled with pain. The memories being created now would forever be fixed to pain and tragedy.
The smell. That's what I will remember the most. The mix of fuel, exhaust, antifreeze and blood. It smelled of death. It permeated my clothes and seeped into my pours. It will never leave my mind. I don't know that you can get rid of it even after washing. But… I will try.
The sight of the crash. Metal twisted around the car. Bodies lying broken on the pavement. The lights splashing across the scene. Red, Blue, Red, Blue. The bright white spot lights that leave nothing to the imagination as they light the street to show us our way around.
I walked about the scene trying to find something, anything to do. But there wasn't anything that could be done. The Spirits had already taken them home. We were just here to collect what was left. To try to give them some dignity in death. We pulled the sheets across them, we hid them from sight. No one should have to see this.
Click, swirl, click, swirl. Everyone is doing their jobs. The only sound heard across the area is that of the emergency lights and low murmuring as pertinent information was passed from crew member to crew member. The sirens have died out as the victim count grew higher. The murmurs of what had happened were quiet. We walked as if on a movie set. It was surreal. Oh Spirits, I wish this was just a movie set.
No longer able to breathe through my nose because of the smells, I began to breathe through my mouth. But that sense too was assaulted. The taste of death in the air, the fumes of the emergency vehicles, the exhaust fumes from the helicopter when it took off, and the taste of the coming rain.
Gloves and equipment kept the sense of touch from being overwhelmed. I watch as my crewmates walk about the scene. Their eyes wide open but their vision has narrowed to the task at hand. It was too much. The victims were too young.
Prayers were offered by witnesses and my crewmates. I watched as one man bent down on one knee in the middle of the street. He stared with unseeing eyes at the sight before him. It was the touch on his shoulder, a hand, a call to comfort that brought him back.
Police, fire, paramedic and coroner units swarmed the scene. The official count was 2 survivors and 4 fatalities. The official count didn't reflect the scars left behind for us. How were we expected to just go on as usual? I have seen bad scenes before but this, this was different. These were children. Not one over 18 years old. For four of them, never to get any older.
This is my job, my career. I went into it with eyes wide open but nothing they teach you in school can prepare you for this. The brotherhood of the fire service is all there is to fall back on. But is it strong enough? It's not like I'm new but I'm not an old hat either.
I look to my crew again. I am standing off to the side, no one seems to notice. We are all lost. Cap is riding herd over us, always the protector. Mike is sitting on the front bumper of Big Red, normally stoic but even this seems to be showing on him. Chet and Marco are on the rear bumper but not speaking to each other, the effect is already being noted as the normally active talkative pair sit in silence. Roy is just finishing with the last of the police reports over by the patrol car. I had finished before they started to talk to him. I don't know how he is doing.
We've been together for a few years now. Normally we can lean on each other. But all of us need help this time. We, as a group, can be great when taking care of others but often we fall short when taking care of ourselves.
Johnny surveyed the scene again. The yellow blankets covered 4 bodies. The ambulances had pulled away and now it was time for them to return to quarters. Each had been changed by this call. Each was wrapped in their own thoughts. He hoped they would be alright.