I love this quote from Chief Croker, FDNY in 1908:
“Firemen are going to get killed. When they join the department they face that fact. When a man becomes a fireman his greatest act of bravery has been accomplished. What he does after that is all in the line of work. They were not thinking of getting killed when they went where death lurked. They went there to put the fire out, and got killed. Firefighters do not regard themselves as heroes because they do what the business requires.”
— Chief Edward F. Croker, FDNY, speaking upon the death of a deputy chief and four firefighters in February of 1908
That quote was glued onto the locker of one of the most fierce firefighters I ever knew. I never forgot it. The best compliment I ever got was from him, after a particularly difficult job. He said I was a good firefighter.
We have a job to do, and every one of us who puts on the uniform does that job according to the training we have received from the people who have done it before us.
Our first and foremost responsibility is to ourselves. We are here to save lives and protect property and get out alive. When there is a chance to save a life, by all means risk your own to do so. If there is no chance, say a prayer for the about-to-be-deceased, gear up and save who can be saved.
There is no glory in dying. Fighting for your life with every ounce of energy you have so that your children, wives, huabands mothers and fathers need not mourn your loss is honorable. We are no more brave than the person on the street who steps in front of a speeding train hoping to save the person who fell on the tracks, or ran into a burning house to rescue the baby.
Courage is everywhere; when called upon average people do extraordinary things. We are simply blessed to be called upon often.
Firefighters who do not value their lives and think it noble to die because it is their job get good firefighters killed.
We have chosen this vocation; nobody put a gun to our heads and made us do it. We are firefighters because we want to be firefighters. We understand the risks, and sacrifice, and take on those risks and sacrifices of our own free will.
In the unfortunate event that one of us falls, the rest of us will be there for the widow and children, not because we are great people, but because we are good firefighters, and good firefighters do what needs to be done…