Recently, I received an email from one of my old colleagues – Bobby K. I’ll leave his last name unfinished – kinda’ like his last duty day. And also, because he’s been able to shed his old habits and start a new, even respectable new persona near his old duty haunts – South 29th Street and the Trail.(Note to self: Keep it positive.)
You see, Bobby K met or exceeded several of my rules for qualifying as a hero: #1 Anyone who served in the armed forces with honor is a hero. #2 And anyone who served as one of the first unit commanders of Orange County Fire’s special services unit – SQ1, is a hero – Green Hulk logo and all. I’ll cover other rules as time goes on….
When the idea of creating a new special services – heavy rescue – special ops team…whatever you want to call it came up for discussion there were many unknowns. Now, keep in mind; the minds behind this idea weren’t thinking of serving the public. Rather, they were interested in shiny bright things (whoopin’ sparklers as Tad, “Yeah I slept with your executive division chief, what are you going to do about it!”) would say. The louder the sirens and the bigger the horns; the better. You get the drift. But, even with many unknowns, without hesitation, Bobby K stepped up to the plate and said, “Send me in coach.” Prior to this project, Bobby K was assigned to Truck 51 proudly serving the citizens in Pine Castle.
Now, keep in mind those chosen for the Squad had an assortment of skills. Some served on ladder companies, some had hazmat experience, and some were paramedics. But, when it came to confined space rescue or elevated victim rescue (EVR)…not so much. So, the Training Bureau was assigned the task of getting our newfound group of heroes up-to-speed in all the most notable types of tasks necessary to field a credible special ops team. Several training members were assigned the difficult (and sometimes frustrating) task of getting them all to sing from the same choir book. No easy task considering the plethora (Thanks, Gary!) of egos. Some were better singers than others. But other than Lieutenant “I’m too sexy for training” Car Buster cofounder, most jumped into the training regimen and requirements with a fervor seldom seen in Orange County.
Following the basic EVR qualification course, squad members were rotated through training once a month to hone skills and progress from basic to intermediate skill sets. Now, other than Bull who was not fond of any floor more than a few feet off the ground, most took to the EVR requirements with enthusiasm and gusto. The program was humming along without incident until one summer evening…
During a rope rescue drill that had a few built-in challenges, Spencer was assigned the task of rappelling from the roof and retrieving Bobby K who was suspended outside the 4th-floor window. Not too difficult unless you fail to remember a few fundamental rules about gravity. You see, the “victim” was positioned a few feet off from the direct vertical drop angle, so the rescuer had to move his body unnaturally against the gravitational pull to retrieve his victim and safely lower him to terra firma.
All was going swimmingly well under the watchful (and somewhat skeptical eyes) of the instructor – yours truly) when the unexpected struck. As Spencer attempted to release the entanglement from Bobby K the line jolted harshly to the right and as Bobby dropped and slid to the right, Spencer slammed his robust body into the victim’s face, and helmet causing Bobby to lose consciousness. Spencer calmly mentioned his conundrum while those of us on the ground peering skyward wondered why Bobby’s head slumped to the side, his helmet askew, arms and legs dangling without movement.
I thought, is this how my career ends? Was this the blotch on my record that Chief “I want to keep my job, so I’ll sacrifice 140 firefighter’s careers” could finally tag onto me rather than the fact that I had carnal knowledge of his girlfriend and future wife? Nah, as soon as these thoughts blew through my head, Bobby was lowered. He spontaneously awakened, and said, “What happened?” We quickly checked for injuries, determined his level of consciousness was no worse for wear and the only casualty was a crack in his helmet.
Assuming no one was willing to do a “hotwash” or tailboard chat, the only discussion of that evening’s events was probably a few laughs at Bobby’s expense later at Station 50.
A quarter of a century later, I receive occasional emails from Bobby K containing an assortment of cute kitten and puppy pictures, old people jokes and the random political jabber about the Orange One regaining his position after a stolen election. The source of the political drivel usually comes from emails sent by Chief M.C. “I like my job, so all you 140 firefighters can suck it!” Thanks for the laughs and break from reality.
To my surprise and dismay, included in those emails are sometimes announcements for the Pine Castle Historical Society’s monthly dinner – usually at some of the very diners and dives I frequented when I lived in “The City Beautiful” …and miss. It seems Bobby K is now a mover-and-a-shaker with the Pine Castle upper crust; rubbing elbows with none other than the woman who caused the layoff of 140 firefighters, bankrupted a great organization because a dumbass firefighter thought urinating on her picture in a fire station urinal would show her who’s boss. Smooth move knucklehead. The saying: boys will be boys comes to mind right about now; but I digress.
So, you see… old fire dogs can learn new tricks. Forgive your enemy? Turn the other cheek? Let bygones be bygones? I guess in the scheme of things in this great universe, and after seeing some of the things my friend Bobby K has seen in his lifetime; I’ll give him a pass. What are friends for anyway?
Keep sending those kitty pics to me, Bobby. Oh, and you still owe me an SQ1 hulk t-shirt.
See you at the big one.