I wish you could see the sadness of a businessman as his livelihood goes up in flames or that family returning home, only to find their house and belongings damaged or destroyed.
I wish you could know what it is to search a burning bedroom for trapped children, flames rolling above your head, your palms and knees burning as you crawl, the floor sagging under your weight as the kitchen beneath you burns.
I wish you could comprehend a wife's horror at 3 a.m. as I check her husband of forty years for a pulse and find none. I start CPR anyway, hoping against hope to bring him back, knowing intuitively that it is too late. But wanting his wife and family to know everything possible was done.
I wish you knew the unique smell of burning insulation, the taste of soot-filled mucus, the feeling of intense heat through your turnout gear, the sound of flames crackling, the erieness of being able to see absolutely nothing in dense smoke - sensations that I have become too familiar with.
I wish you could understand how it feels to go to school in the morning after having spent most of the night hot and soaking wet at a multiple alarm fire.
I wish you could read my mind as I respond to a building fire, "Is this a false alarm or a working breathing fire? How is the building constructed?
What hazards await me? Is anyone trapped?" Or to an EMS call, "What is wrong with the patient? Is it minor or life-treating? Is the caller really in distress or is he waiting for us with a 2x4 or a gun?
I wish you could be in the emergency room, as a doctor pronounces dead the beautiful little 5 year old girl that I have been trying to save during the past twenty-five minutes who will never go on her first date or say the words, "I love you, Mommy" again.
I wish you could know the frustration I feel in the cab engine, the driver with his foot pressing down hard on the pedal, my arm tugging again and again at the air horn chain, as your feel fail to yield right-of-way at an intersection or in traffic. When you need us, however, your first comment upon our arrival will be, "It took your forever to get here!"
I wish you could know my thoughts as I help extricate a girl of teenage years from the mangled remains of her automobile, "What if this were my sister, my girlfriend, or a friend? What were her parents' reactions going to be as they opened the door to find a police officer hat in hand?"
I wish you could know how it feels to walk in the back door and greet my parents and family, not having the heart to tell them that I nearly did not come back from the last call.
I wish you could feel my hurt as people verbally, and sometimes physically, abuse us or belittle what I do, or as they express their attitudes of, "It will never happen to me."
I wish you could know realize the physical, emotional and mental drain or missed meals, lost sleep and forgone social activities, in addition to all the tragedy my eyes have viewed.
I wish you could know the brotherhood and self-satisfaction of helping save a life or preserving someone's property, of being there in times or crisis, or creating order from total chaos.
I wish you could understand what it feels like to have a little boy tugging at your arm and asking, "Is my Mommy okay?" Not even being able to look in his eyes without tears from your own and not knowing what to say. Or to have to hold back a long-time friend who watches his buddy having rescue breathing done on him as they take him away in the ambulance. You know all along he did not have his seat belt on-sensation that I have become too familiar with. Unless you have lived this kind of life, you will never truly understand or appreciate who I am, what we are, or what our job really mean to us. I wish you could.