When I was young; maybe 5 or 6, our home caught on fire. An aerosol can had come too close to the furnace and exploded. It wasn’t a huge fire and certainly not life threatening for any of us but it was very frightening. I recall being held first by my sisters and then by my mother. I would’ve been wrapped in my blanket – sheltered from the chaos. I remember crying once I learned that our dog Brutus died in that fire. That dog was my best friend.
Once the firefighters arrived, and we saw the damage, I felt my mother tremble. My father, who had been working nights had arrived soon after and I was placed lovingly on the curb across the street. My older sister came to sit by me and we held each other. The fire had burned a small hole in the roof just above my bedroom and I was told that we were going to have to stay somewhere else for a few days. It was disheartening to say the least.
Once the fire was out, our neighbors came around to offer help and I remember vividly one firefighter sitting down next to me. He put his hand on my shoulder as if to say that everything would be okay. He then picked me up and carried me to the big truck and let me sit inside. It was every boys dream. Afterward, he gave me a cookie from inside another truck then brought me back to my mother.
Eventually, the small section of our home was rebuilt by my Dad and his friends. We even got a swimming pool for the back yard. The neighborhood was different after that night; friendlier. I’ll never forget that night, and I’ll never forget that fireman who went out of his way to comfort a frightened little boy.
To all of those who sacrificed and gave their lives on this day 17 years ago, and every other day before and since: we owe you a debt that can never be repaid.