Monday, February 4, 2008



Scared to death

Under informed

Largely understaffed

Extremely flexible

All beaten up

Extreme loyalty

That’s what makes a fireman…
…a fireman

Tom Kenney - 2004


I’ve journeyed through Limbo far too many times
That place between life and death
The air ripe with pressure as we battle with fate
Difficult to take even a breath

As we race against time to save someone’s life
Death lingers, but we do not fear it
But as the heat of the fire robs my physical strength
So this stress saps my spirit

No matter how often I play out this scene
It never is a good one
Even when we manage to cheat the Grim Reaper
The act is never done

We stabilize and extricate and tend to their wounds
And transport them to the ER
It’s then that we think the play’s finally concluded
But it’s never really over

Most times we lose track of the ‘faceless’ victim
Once he’s out of our care
Most times we never know if he lives or he dies
Check on him (?) – we don’t dare

It’s better for us to leave well-enough alone
And just know we did our best
It’s our job to make sure he gets to the hospital
The doctors there do the rest

Every journey to Limbo weighs heavy on my heart
Especially when tending to children
For there’s no place on earth we mortals fear more
It’s like entering the lion’s den

So after an encounter battling death on the street
We retreat quietly to the station
We pretend it doesn’t get to us and just shake it off
But to believe that is a miscalculation

2007 - Tom Kenney

Little Girl I Remember

I remember the night like it was hours ago
Though I know in my head it’s been years
She was one of the rare ones to get to me
One of the few to reduce me to tears

We had been at a fire in an old warehouse
Just packing up hose, getting ready to leave
When the call came over my portable radio
The way it was dispatched was hard to believe

A report of a five-year-old shot in the chest
Down on the sidewalk, with police on the way
They were sending EMS from another District
And an Engine Company from even further away

The scene where this shooting had taken place
Was in our District and not far from our location
We were much closer than anyone already enroute
So I told my driver that that was our destination

I radioed to dispatch that we would take the call
And we headed to the scene, no time to spare
We seemed to fly that night, but not fast enough
We pulled up to chaos but the police weren’t there

A five-year-old girl was lying in a pool of blood
On the sidewalk right outside a candy store
An innocent victim of a drive by shooting
When she and her father walked out the door

Sometimes I think it would’ve been easier
To throw a sheet over her and just leave
To work a life-and-death call on a child
Is always a difficult scene to perceive

As that fleeting thought is quickly tossed aside
We see that she’s breathing and she has a pulse
We franticly begin to check for her wounds
As we rip open her shirt she begins to convulse

We hold her down gently until she stops shaking
Then we spot a small hole just above her belly
It’s oozing blood with the rhythm of her heartbeat
I slowly roll her over as my hands turn to jelly

No exit wound means the bullet is still inside her
But there’s no telling how much damage was done
We’ve no time to waste in getting her to a hospital
As the Rescue pulls up we’ve already begun

A collar and backboard to keep her from moving
We clean up her wound and cover with a dressing
As long as we’re moving and continue to keep busy
We can’t think about her age, and that is a blessing

She lies still as we work to save her young life
We control the bleeding and monitor her breaths
While she lies there unmoving and still unconscious
She’s trapped in that space between life and death

We wheel her into the Rescue and head to the ER
To hand off her care to the trauma team there
For the quicker she’s in their hands the better
So we pass her to them and say a silent prayer

This whole ordeal, for us, was barely 30 minutes
But the nightmares it left us will last a lifetime
I heard later on the news this little girl survived
But she still carries the bullet next to her spine

Tom Kenney - 2006

Good Times Too

Much has been said of the tragedies we see
Yes, there are many and they’ve affected me
But if that’s all there was to this business I’d be…
…an emotional cripple

Much of being a firefighter can tug at your heart
Things begin to affect you right from the start
Thankfully it’s rewarding things that stand apart…
…from all the despair

Every so often a fuckin’ miracle occurs
Sometimes it’s right away, and sometimes it takes years
But when it happens to you, you’re reduced to tears…
…the saving of a life

I’ve held a newborn, cradled her snug in my arms
Heard her desperate whimpers as I kept her safe from harm
I couldn’t keep from melting from her heavenly charms
This is my reward

Though there are days when it seems I’m surrounded by death
I have comforted an old lady as she drew her last breath
But there are also the times when I help to cheat death
That’s what keeps me going

For a life is as precious a gift as anyone is given
And to protecting this life with my own, I am driven
In this way, perhaps, my own sins be forgiven…
…finding my salvation

In my life as a fireman I wouldn’t change a thing
There were many defeats that were emotionally wrenching
There were also many victories to ease the suffering and bring…
…good times too

Tom Kenney - 2005