Before you saw the picture, I’m sure you knew what the next question was going to be. I’ve heard it countless times, and I’m sure you have too. These words asked hundreds of times a day all over the world, are, in my opinion, second only to “Thank you for your service”.
Oh wow! Your a fireman?! What’s the worst thing you’ve ever seen?!
This question used to get to me every time; right to the core. How could someone think it’s ok to ask a stranger to go back to a moment like that? What right do they have to put me back in these moments?!
The answer, quite frankly, is that they ask because they don’t understand what they are asking. How could they possibly know what it’s like to watch a coworker die, to disentangle someone from a mangled vehicle, the smell of death, or to calmly perform cpr on a 5 year old girl while your insides cry out!
The picture above has always intrigued me. I love the work of Paul Combs. I think we can all see the obviousness of a lone firefighter that is traveling with his “baggage”. What is less obvious, and I could be wrong, is the innocence in the eyes of the person asking the question. He has no idea about that mans hurt, he just wants a “good story”.
It has taken me quite a while, but this work off art has given me courage. After all, if you follow me, or have read my previous work, you would see that the little girl in the front is my personal baggage. The man carrying her could easily be me, or any of the countless others just like me. The man to his left can’t see them, he just wants a good story to distract him from his day, after all, we as firemen/medics/police/soldiers do a wonderful job of showing the world how awesome the job is, why would the man not want a story?!
I try to remember this when I’m asked the question. Like I said, I used to get upset, shy away. Now? I just give a smile back, along with a very polite: ” please, you don’t want to hear that. I save that one just for me.”
Brothers and sisters, I know this topic can be hard. Especially when you’re hit off guard. I’m here if you ever need to talk. I promise I won’t ask, but if you want to share, let’s take a walk.