This fictional story is dedicated to the brave men and women who lost their lives on September 11, 2001, and to everyday heroes around the world.
My uncle is a fireman. I always thought he had a cool job. He gets to stay at the firehouse two nights per week and sleep in a bunk. The firemen practice sliding down a pole and playing with neat equipment like gas masks. Well, I thought it was playing. Uncle Robert took the time to explain some things to me one day. He sometimes brought me to the station to help polish the trucks. That day when we took a break for lunch, we had a talk.
"Brady," he said, "What do you think of the firehouse?"
"I think it's cool! You guys get to dress up in cool uniforms and slide down a pole. You get to help in exciting ways. How fun!"
Uncle Robert chuckled. "Brady, I want you to understand something. It certainly is 'cool' to be a firefighter in one way. And it certainly can be exciting. However, you need to know that it can be a very dangerous profession."
Uncle Robert went on. "Let me tell you about a good friend who went to school with me. Mark and I were trained one summer to serve in the fire department. Mark was gifted at it. He was brave, and he always ran in to help no matter what the danger.
"After serving a few years in our rural fire department, Mark decided he wanted more excitement. So he applied to work for NYFD, the New York City Fire Department. He moved there in August of 2001. He was assigned to a fire station near the World Trade Center."
At this point, my uncle stopped for a moment. He seemed to be bracing himself.