The Importance of Family, a very personal post.

Over 30 years ago my husband joined the fire service. He had been a teacher, but wanted something ‘less stressful’.

After a very intense 3 month training period when several trainees didn’t make the grade, he got through, and had his passing out parade, attended by me, my Mum, and our two children. Our daughter was almost 5 and our son 6 months old. In his address to the families, the Chief Officer spoke directly to the ‘wives, mothers and girlfriends’ about how we had lost a little bit of our men forever, to the brotherhood that was the fire brigade. As you can imagine this played really well with me, and later, when that same chief tickled our son under the chin and said he might grow up to be a fireman like his Daddy, I thrust our daughter forward and said, “I doubt it but I think my daughter might“.

Later, at the dinner dance that evening, I inveigled a dance with the Chief (my husband had already decided his career in the fire brigade was over before it had begun), and asked him, as we shuffled around in a stilted manner, why the fire service had no women in it.

He replied, that if they had the ‘correct physical attributes’ they could ‘probably’ join at some point. Do you mean, I said, that they need to have a penis?

However, one thing said on that day has turned out to be very true, and hugely poignant now. He said:

 The fire brigade is like one big family and you, partners, mothers, and children, are now part of it.

Now of course, the ‘partners’ are a very diverse group, but we are still family. And when good or bad things happen within your family you rejoice or cry, sometimes both.

The recent fire in London has touched us all. Watching the firefighters, men and women, running in and out of the burning building, filled me with a strange and tearful pride. I was proud to see Dany Cotton (above) fronting media discussions and I was proud to see so many females and people of colour on the team.

But my heart was breaking, too. Breaking, like yours, because of the loss of lives of so many. Breaking because every single one of those firefighters has been trained to save lives and there were so many lives they couldn’t save. I know the weight of those BA canisters, how heavy the uniforms are, how they will be sweating profusely, how they will be crawling around in the dark, knowing that the edges of the building are very liable to collapse. They will come out, grab a drink, get new breathing apparatus and then go right back in. I know each and every one of them will carry that trauma within them, despite the bluster and banter they may use to cover it up. I know they will never forget and that it will haunt their days and nights forever and they won’t complain because it is their job. They signed up for this. I know they will all feel they could have saved more lives if circumstances had been different. I know that over the next hours and days they will be the ones finding and tenderly carrying out the dead bodies, shedding tears behind their visors.

There are many tales of heroes emerging from this very tragic event. The sense of community has been overwhelming, from all sectors. Staff in the much vilified councils nearby will be working their socks off trying to relocate homeless families. The faith communities have become focal points for collection of food and clothes. There is a fund to help people rebuild lives. People will be trying to comfort the bereaved. The anger will hopefully be directed towards positive legislation and action.

I salute all the emergency services. However, the fire brigade is my family. It’s become something of a cliche, but they genuinely do rush in when others rush out. They have taken a beating with cuts and loss of jobs and appliances (several stations are being closed in London and elsewhere). They are my heroes. I salute them and send love to the London Fire Brigade and their families and partners.

If you’d like to donate to the Grenfell Fire Disaster fund, you can do so here via The Big Give.

Picture: Gretel Ensignia via Metro Magazine

Posted on June 15th, 2017 by

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