Beliefnet
How Great Thou Part

The distinctive sounds of the fire house sift through the air. The radio voices communicating. The occasional alarm signaling the need to race to the trucks, gear up and sound the sirens.

In between that action lives the secondary environment of the station house. It is the gathering of brothers and sisters who live together, cook together, train together and rescue together.

It is a familiar place to me. I have grown up in and out of firehouses watching ordinary people turn into extraordinary people who live outside of themselves each and every day.

I watch people milling in and out of the house. They are family members and fire department family coming to say goodbye to my brother-in-law. He has earned his retirement. In truth, he has more than earned it.

He is the only active, on the job, firefighter to have served forty years in Fairfax County. Furthermore, he is a part of the elite, Virginia Task Force 1. The domestic and international rescue team that travels to rescue others in the face of natural or man-made disasters, in partnership with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

It is a joyful day. Stories are spun and laughter audible. In between; however, there is sadness. A hesitance to leave this job he loves where they jokingly refer to him as “senior man.” An obvious nod to his forty years of on the job endurance.

We fill our plates with the type of yummy food that families like us know are trademark. My brother-in-law gets up to speak. His voice catching his emotion. He speaks of being young and watching his father stop the car and jump out and race towards the fire truck.

“Those moments just kinda stay with you,” he says. “I knew then what I wanted to do.”

It reminds me of another story. My brother speaking of our Uncle Owen who we called the ‘Big O.” The ‘Big O’ used to take my brother on calls in New York City. Back then the firefighters still hung on to the back of truck as they flew down streets and around corners.

“I thought he was a cowboy,” my brother told us the day we said goodbye to the ‘Big O.’

So I knew what my brother-in-law was trying to say as he fought back the tears and emotion.

That watching a hero stays with you and when that hero is your dad or someone like a dad to you, well then, it truly never leaves you. In fact, it makes you want to be a hero, too.

It makes you want to be the kinda person that races towards danger at your own expense. The kinda person that lives every single day outside of themselves, taking care of the rest of the world. The kinda person that makes it seem ordinary. Like it’s no big deal. And it isn’t to them because it’s in their heart.

I have said that my grandpa who was a New York City cop had a heart so big that his body couldn’t barely house it. A heroes heart.

My brother-in-law hangs up his uniform today, but as we all know the uniform is simply a reminder – Superman’s cape. It doesn’t need to be worn for him to be on call. It doesn’t need to be worn to still be a part of the fire department because they share the same heart.

And because…heroes always recognize other heroes.

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