One of the times I get to see my firefighter do his thing is when we drive past bad accidents on the freeway. I've come to learn that most accidents aren't nearly as devastating as the destruction of the cars involved would lead one to believe. All of those crumple zones and airbags really do work! More often than not, people walk away from the most horrific looking wrecks.
Here's an example. The driver of this vehicle fell asleep at the wheel. He ended up deciding not to even go to the hospital.
There are times, however, when an older vehicle is involved or when a passenger isn't wearing a seat belt (or both) when those involved do not walk away.
I remember the first time I saw my firefighter in action. It was Christmas and we were on the way home from celebrating the day with his family. It was late and our car was loaded with presents and children. The freeway was pretty clear that night, and I was mostly worried about how difficult it was going to be to get my sugar-stuffed, over-stimulated children to bed. Suddenly, we noticed a van in the center divider that had rolled over. The accident had clearly just happened moments before--debris was still scurrying on the freeway--so we decided to help out.
My firefighter took the closest exit and quickly and safely (if not exactly legally) drove back to the scene of the accident. He parked the car close to the center divider, far enough away so that we wouldn't be in harm's way, and the children wouldn't see what was going on. I stayed with the kids as he jumped out and ran to the accident. I watched as he switched from just a guy into a rescuer. It really felt like he had gone into a phone booth and had come out with a cape on.
He found a drunk man who had not been wearing a seat belt and was ejected from his vehicle as it rolled. No other vehicles were involved in the accident, and no one else was with him, thank goodness.
I watched from the car as my firefighter knelt in the glass on the side of the road and did his assessment on the victim. Soon, an off duty firefighter and a cop showed up and helped secure the scene. I watched them work, silhouetted by the flashing red and blue lights. My firefighter moved quickly and knew just what to do. He told the cop to get the CPR mask out of his patrol car. The cop told him that he didn't have one. My firefighter told him to look in his trunk, and in there he would find a first responder bag. In the bag would be a mask. The cop sheepishly returned with the mask.
Traffic slowed to a crawl as people stopped to watch what was going on. Their headlights made the ground sparkle. I was glad they crept by to watch - I would much rather have curious and slow onlookers, than cars zooming by my vulnerable man.
The victim was not in good shape. His breathing slowed to a stop and my firefighter began CPR. But there wasn't anything he, or anyone else, could do and the man passed away.
My firefighter went to the fire engine that had arrived on scene and cleaned up. He climbed back into the car, the fire engine blocked traffic for us so we could get out, and we continued the drive home.
My previous concerns about getting the kids to bed seemed trivial at this point. On the drive home I felt sorry for the loss of this man's life, yet so grateful that we were a few seconds behind him when he crashed. Instead of potentially being involved in the accident, we were able to stop and help out. And, I had the rare opportunity to see my firefighter at work. I realized then and there that I could never do his job. And I realized how incredibly grateful I am that there are people out there who can do it!