Humor columnist and firefighter; sometimes my two worlds collide

imageAs some of you know, in addition to being a humor columnist, I’m also a volunteer firefighter. I don’t write much about that aspect of my life because I don’t encounter many humorous situations when we roll onto a scene. About half of what we do involves MVAs (motor vehicle accidents), from fender benders to multi-car fatals. Because we get a lot of tourists here, most of the situations we encounter don’t involve people we know. But living in a smaller town, you know the possibility exists every time your pager goes off. It just goes with the territory.

At 3 a.m. this morning, we were tapped out for a single car accident into a ravine with two people involved: one out and essentially unhurt, the other deceased. Upon our arrival, I recognized the truck and, minutes later, confirmed that the young man underneath was the son of a family I know. Wonderful people. Loving people. People whose world had just fallen off its axis. The father, who always greets me with a handshake from behind the meat counter at our supermarket, was understandably in hysterics.

As a firefighter, I needed to keep my head clear and disassociate myself from the emotion of the situation in order to remain focused, helpful and effective in retrieving what remained of his son.

As a father, I wanted to cry with him. I also wanted to hop into my engine and go home to my own children, wake them from their sleep and enfold them into my arms, squeezing them until my arms emptied of strength. The fact that I still had that option made me feel both deeply grateful and numbingly sad. The man refused to leave his son’s side next to the wreckage as he wept, his tears falling into the running creek water and mingling with the red, swirling eddies. I had momentary flashes of seeing each of my own children there, and the agony I would feel. I fought those thoughts by purposefully biting my lip to the point of bleeding — anything to keep me from going to that place.

As a columnist, it’s my job to be funny. So after a quick shower, giving long hugs to each of our kids, and an impromptu plead for each of them to always, ALWAYS wear their seat belt, I left for work as they exchanged confused glances. At 8:30 a.m., I wiped my eyes and went to work.

As a blogger, this is the place where my two worlds occasionally collide. Thank you for standing by me as I sift through the pieces. I promise I’ll fit them back together before the day is out.

It’s what I do.

Some days are just easier than others…


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Ned's Blog

I was a journalist, humor columnist, writer and editor at Siuslaw News for 23 years. The next chapter in my own writer’s journey is helping other writers prepare their manuscript for the road ahead. I'm married to the perfect woman, have four great kids, and a tenuous grip on my sanity...

41 thoughts on “Humor columnist and firefighter; sometimes my two worlds collide”

  1. Bless you, dearheart … stay strong.

    Everybody in the world appreciates the job you do on behalf of the rest of us. No-one could ever get inured to the dreadful things you will sometimes see. But we are grateful you are so strong when the rest of us are weak …

    Don’t be in any hurry to get back to being funny … heal yourself first.

    1. Many thanks, Angela. I’m never sure if some things are just easier to deal with than others, or if things just linger inside and well up from time to time. Either way, I’m fortunate to have the support system I have — at home on in cyberspace.

      Thank you for being part of it 😉

  2. sending peace, ned.
    i have 3 brothers who volunteer & have all been through same. you do all you can do and the rest is up to the man upstairs.

  3. There are moments in a person’s life that one never forgets; those special happy occasions, and when a loved one passes. I am sure, from the bottom of my heart and soul that the father of boy who passed will never forget you for being there, a friendly face, a familiar face, a face that held it together for him. My heart goes out to him and his family… I cant fathom the idea, but can only say that every moment is precious and that living it out right and full is what one should do. You’re a good man Ned.

    1. Thank you. Truly. And you are so right about how precious each moment is in our lives and the lives of those we love.

      I know that next handshake is going to be an emotional one — but one that is necessary and will mean so much.

      As one EMT said, “You don’t get over something like this; you get through it.”

      Again, thank you for your thoughtful words.

  4. I work with first responders as part of my job, and some of the stories they tell me chill me to the bone. I can’t imagine doing that job every single day. Volunteer firefighters are the unsung heroes of the first response world. Keep on doin’ what you’re doin’.

  5. Many thanks to you for doing what you do. It’s a tough job. I don’t think I have the strength for it. I lost my husband and a son to an auto accident, and many times I have wondered about the people who had to deal with the wreckage. I hope the images will fade quickly and know that you did all you could possibly do.

  6. i cry in empathy, in understanding and regret for a young life, lost too soon; for parents who can not bear the pain of it and for everyone who had to witness the wreckage of not just a vehicle, but of a young man who did not survive and his father, who wishes he could trade places with his child, but of an entire family.
    …I am so very, very sorry…

  7. So very sorry to hear about your night and what you saw and felt. I worked for a time in casualty and was always mindful of the fact that even if hysterical relatives arrived in and patients were roaring in agony, I was looking after them in a controlled environment, unlike people like you who have to deal with the tragedy at its height.
    Major credit to you all. I know also that for some reason certain situations affect us more than others. Hope you’re okay.

  8. i’m so sorry to hear this and know this must be your fear every time you respond to a call. it is good to know there are compassionate people like yourself in the world. peace, beth

    1. Thank you, Beth. The compassion of the people I work with is one of the reasons it means so much to me to do it. I appreciate them. And your kind words.

  9. Wow that is a lot. A lot to see, a lot to feel, a lot to process, just a lot. Thank you for your service to help others. Not many can do that. You have a good heart. You are a good man!

  10. So, sorry to hear about a young man losing his life. In life, we love, and laugh and need people such as yourself to be there for us. Bless you and your sweet Mom for giving you the basics. Keep hugging those kids!

  11. Beautiful. And so unbelievably sad.

    My daughter just got her driver’s license AND her first car. I feel like I spend my life “reminding” her to “wear your seatbelt”, “don’t use your cell for ANYTHING while driving”, “slow down!” — all so that I will never have to be one of those parents who has lost that which is so precious and irreplaceable — their child.

    Hang in there.

    1. You’re daughter may get annoyed, but keep reminding her. She’ll understand one day. In the meantime, just enjoy the gift of every moment — as I’m sure you already do.

      Thak you fro your kind words.

  12. Intense! I have to say I highly respect firefighters! I recently needed one Monday at 2:15 am… Ill spare details as to why… But I posted it on my blog… If you care to find out. I’m sure some day I will look back and laugh… Not right now.
    I also want to say my heart goes out to those that have lost someone… I’ve been on scenes of accidents and felt helpless…

    1. Wow, that’s a scary night that haas left you with some difficult decisions to make. I understand why the laughter will have to come later. But it will. Once you’ve gotten through this. I think I mentioned before that one of our children has Aspergers Syndrome. He’s 14 now, and there are lots of things we dealt with when he was younger which, at the time seemed anything but funny, but that we giggle about now — and so does he.

      1. Yes! I remember you mentioning that. It’s been suggested by family members to get a GPS CHIP in him. He learned about faucets….. We got this. They plan on teaching hook how to open doors… Can’t see or hear… Gets out? It wouldn’t help to call him… I’m looking at how to safely attach a hip key movement alarm from apple…on him… 🙂

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