Thursday, October 28, 2010


December 2, 1850:
          I woke up this morning once again with my dream of becoming a firefighter fresh on my mind. The view out of my mediocre Brooklyn home was an overcast sky and little flakes of white snow that were accumulating amongst the dead bushes surrounding my house. An empty bag of Cracker Jacks flew across the empty street and a newsie was struggling to set up his stand in the blistering cold. I walked out of my room and passed my crooked yet colorful Christmas tree. My hot oatmeal was sitting on the table with my mom next to it slowly sipping her coffee. My dog also came and greeted me. I slipped on my worn out jeans and my school shirt. I got my bag on and walked out the door, greeted by the blistering cold, and made my way to school. On my way I saw a billboard of Santa Claus holding up a Daisy pellet rifle which reminds me that Christmas is only 23 days away! I already have a pretty good idea of what I want: an authentic toy fire truck. As I continued my walk, I saw a horse-drawn fire carriage and waved. I got a pleasant wave back and knew that one day that would be me. I finally got to school and said a kind hello to my best friend Ernie. I went to my usual classes and then the final bell rang. I walked back through the cold to my house and entered my room. I read my firefighting book until my mother came in to say goodnight. I went to sleep with firefighting on the top of my mind.

May 15th, 1859:
On this day a month ago, I was graduating from NYU’s School of Medicine to be a doctor and it was the proudest day of my parents who had always wanted me to become a doctor. I had never really wanted to become a doctor but my father thought there was some potential. Since I graduated, I haven’t found a job and I found out I have a lot of free time I am going to go job hunting, because I want to be what I had always dreamed of becoming: a firefighter.
          It’s noon and I have met plenty of nice people proposing a large amount of money for me to work. They’re offering me around $ 150 per month. I got offers in a few hospitals, but it all seems boring with only the same kind of people all doing the same thing. This afternoon, I’m going to head back to Brooklyn to continue my journey. I had a few more people offer me jobs.
          I have been made an offer to work in the police department and I feel very interested; getting to walk in parades with pride and with my nice baton. I just don’t think I will find any better job than this. As I was walking back to Manhattan I saw a man who seemed pretty old. It was windy as it wasn’t the summer yet and the old man lost his hat. I ran to pick it up and as I did, the man was very thankful. He then asked for my name and I answered: Scott. He told me that I was a very elegant young man, and soon I realized a very kind man was standing over me. I asked for his name and he answered he was named Bill. I asked him what he did as a living and he told me he had retired but he was still very interested in the New York life. He told me I would make the perfect firefighter and that there was going to be the annual firefighter training in a few weeks, organized by the city. He unfortunately told me I wouldn’t be paid because firefighting wasn’t very important in New York these days. I walked back to my home at  108 Franklin Avenue in Brooklyn. I was dreaming of what I should do. I knew I was going to choose between the police and the firefighting.
         I arrived at my house and ate dinner. I was happy I had met that man. As I went to bed I dreamed about how much fun it would be to be a fireman.

 July 12th, 1859
          Today when I woke up in the morning I knew it was going to be a wonderful day. Today was the beginning of my training to be a great firefighter and save people. When I got to the FDNY Fire Academy center I was amazed to see 50 people there. Then after 20 minutes of waiting the fire trainer came and took us to outdoor military center. Doyle McCarthy, the fire trainer that was sent from Greenwich, England told us about each activity. There were 20 activities and he said that only 35 people would make it to the next day.  I found the activities very easy for me but I saw a lot people struggling in weight lifting and especially the obstacle course. It was a hard course because there was a lot of physical endurance.  I excelled in the obstacle course beating everyone by 52 seconds.  At the end of the day Doyle said that 45 people were still remaining so we would have to do a test fire. I got into fireman gear and a bus took us to this abandoned building. When I got to the building I saw a lot of smoke and Doyle was screaming words telling us what to do. I went into the building and started searching for ways to go up to the top. Finally I found a way to go up in the emergency exit.  At each floor I stopped to see if the fire trainer had put a victim to save. Finally I saw one behind the fire exit door. I grabbed him and finally got to the last floor where I was greeted by McCarthy. He congratulated me and said I was the first one to arrive. Then he said I could leave and come back tomorrow. This is how my wonderful day ended. I did not put the fire out but I was still happy of my accomplishment.

 August 17, 1859 

My training is finally over, and i am now  a firefighter. I was astounded at the poor quality of everything in the firehouse. The lock on the door was broken, and the axes were blunt. The water carriage’s wheels were rolling crookedly and the Browder Life Saving Machine® had holes in it. It is a net meant to catch people jumping from flaming buildings. Finally, and most importantly, the Siebe Gorman, by Siebe Gorman® was broken. The siebe Gorman is a tube that other firefighters pump air into so that we can breathe. “How are we supposed to breathe in the fire if we don’t have a breathing tube?” I asked myself.  I thought, “I shall fix this up, and make my city proud.” I am being shunned by all my coworkers for they think that the equipment does not need to be fixed, that it proves that I am weak and that I am scared. They are God’s gift to men in their eyes, but in mine, they are nothing. They are dumb, weak, and ugly. They are also arrogant and greedy. They are always playing poker and saying that the others are cheating, while they themselves are cheating. Hypocrites, the lot of them. Except for the chief Christopher L. Martineau, he is different. He has a vision, that the city of Brooklyn and the city of Manhattan would be united. Once that happens, he hopes that we would no longer suffer from the tyrannical rule of John Allen, Mayor of Brooklyn. He is gathering proof that Mayor Allen is stealing money and is firing fireman based on their race. He is firing all the people of color, weather they be Native American, or Negroes. In my, and in my chief’s view, he is the devil’s offspring, the essence of cruelty. My chief is also very generous and he is often giving me some extra food to eat at night (the wages are horrible). He has also been tirelessly trying to receive funding to fix the roof of the firehouse, so that the rain in Windsor Terace doesn’t come into the it and to make our station more fire resistant. He will be my role model and he says that when he removes the mayor from his position and he becomes mayor, he will bring me with him to a high position.
September 10th ,1859
 I was sitting around the firehouse playing cards with my friend Timothy, smoking a crumply cigarette and drinking a bitter cup of coffee. I went to make some more coffee when a loud screech invaded the room. I jumped and dropped my mug. Quickly I ran to the equipment locker like we had been taught at the academy. I pulled on my heavy boots and slipped on my thick and bulky jacket. I threw on my helmet and hopped on to the fire carriage. The horses were itching to leave and once the chief climbed on they thundered out of the old firehouse. I hung on to the brass bar looking on to the stupefied people on the sidewalks. We could see the smoke through the vast jungle of buildings and then we could start to smell it. The carriage pulled up in front of the building which was already engulfed in flames. The police had already set up barriers to keep the public out of danger. I grabbed my heavy axe and ran up to the door. The other firefighters started hosing the building down. I smashed the door open and ran in. To my surprise no one had followed me in. I was alone. I broke open the first door I saw; nothing. I went on to the second door across from this one and broke that one as well. By this time the heat was so strong that the wood handle on my axe acquired a blackish color. I peered into the room and to my surprise there was a man lying on the floor covered by a thin layer of dust. I ran up to him and, thanks to my medical education, I could deduce that no physical damage was done and that he was only semi conscious. I picked him up and ran out the room. I looked at the condition of the building and I couldn’t do anymore for the people that might have been trapped upstairs. I exited the burning building with the man on my shoulder. In the light I could see that he was Negro. I ignored this until someone broke through the police barrier and slashed me in the back with a broken beer bottle. I fell and the police ran after him. The medical staff that was on the scene came and took the body from me. My fellow firefighters came and congratulated me. I wasn’t in the mood for celebrating so I went home. Before I left the chief said he would put me up for a firefighting medal. On my first fire, what a great achievement!

June 18th, 1865
So far I am really happy about this job. I have been to a few fires and discovered the world of firefighting. I was very proud to fight with the firefighter’s uniform on my back. As I was waking up, I was thinking about my bravest fire… I was proud of standing up for the Negroes. I had gathered up all of my courage and couldn’t resist putting a voice for myself and the Negroes. I was sad that even some of my co-workers were racist towards the black men.
I was walking from my Brooklyn apartment to the firehouse remembering all that had happened.I was entering the firehouse and sat down to my usual table. I drank the boiling coffee that had been poured for me as I sat down. It was a same old morning again as I was walking to my locker. I opened my locker and a letter fell to my feet. I was surprised as I saw that there was the chief’s name at the signature. The letter was saying that today was an important day in my life and that he hoped to see me at the mayor’s house at four o’clock. The P.S said: “Try to dress up properly, but if a fire comes up, the fire is your priority.” I was proud and thanks to the P.S, I knew that I would be honored, and rewarded. It was a quarter past 3 and I was really excited. In the morning I had bought a suit because never in my life I had even worn one. I was really proud. Every 5 minutes I would look at my watch as the time passed so slowly.
          It was 4 o’clock. I had been waiting for this moment all day long. I arrived here fifteen minutes ago. The captain saluted me as I came into the mayor’s house. I had never been here before, and I had never even touched the air around this house. Finally, it started! I was standing on stage behind my captain who was at the moment talking about how great of an addition I’d been. He told the story of when I had been at the fire where I saved the Negro. Then he said that my great skill was going to be recompensed today. Then he awarded me a beautiful medal which he clipped on my jacket. He also told me that I would also be awarded a promotion and that I would see a raise in my next paycheck.
          This was, so far, the proudest day of my life. My captain invited me to dinner. We laughed and ate around the nicest table in the city.  I afterward went back to my place. I was proud of myself and I was about to go to sleep when I saw my medal and placed it on my light table. I stared at it for a few minutes and turned the lights off.

January 20th, 1866

        Today the captain told us to hurry to our fire truck because there was a very important fire.  I went into the truck and put my gear on. I was extremely nervous because this was my second fire and an apparently an important one because it we failed our job we would have to pay the consequences and be fired. When we were halfway to Manhattan our captain informed us that this was the fire of the year. The mayor’s Home in the Upper East Side took fire.  Someone had thrown a Molotov cocktail through his window because he thought the new taxes were not good. When we got to the house I rushed out to go in the house. But I was quickly restrained by my captain. He told me that every one had a special job; mine was to stop the fire. My friend was in charge of finding the mayor and getting him out. I took the fire hose from the carriage and the driver turned the water on. At first it was hard to control but after I got the hang of it I thought it was easy. I started spraying the outside of the house then when the fire stopped and smoke started coming I went in and started spraying water every where. After 2 minutes of doing this my fellow firefighter a came out holding the mayor in his arms. Then the hard part came. I had to go to the second floor and hose a big fire out. It took me 15 minutes. Then finally when the job was done an ambulance which was a carriage with two people on it came to take the mayor to the hospital called Bellevue Hospital.  Then we got into our truck and went to our fire station where the chief congratulated us. That night I got a good night sleep.

November 24th,1866, Thanksgiving

          A big, roasting hot, flavorful turkey. It made my mouth water. There was also a steaming pot of mashed potatoes and a huge bowl of gravy. It was also accompanied by several pieces of corn, and a slice of watermelon. The turkey was cooked for 6 hours, and was perfect, just juicy enough, very flavorful and not too solid. The gravy was plentiful, and complemented the potatoes perfectly. The potatoes were not too sweet and just hot enough. It was   pure bliss. The company was also good. Christopher was with me (the chief) and his wife. We were talking about different stories that we had heard, until Christopher told me this story:
“It was my second fire. I was young, inexperienced and full of hope. I was at the station when one of our officers, always on the look out for fires, noticed one in the distance. I ran to it. When I got there, a few firefighters were already on the building. The heat, oh the heat, I will always remember that heat. My visor melted almost immediately. And those visors only melt at two hundred degrees. I started   to leave it, but, I heard a scream. It was a shrill scream, a scream, of pain and desperation. That scream will change my life. I did the dumbest thing in my life. I ran back into the building. After that, I hardly remember a thing. All I remember is ridiculous heroics. I ran up, grabbed the baby, and ran down, Jumping over, and in fire. I sustained fourth degree burns.”
That was the end of the story. We finished the meal; I helped clean up the dishes, and walked home.

March 17th, 1869

          It was just another normal day at fire station. We were all sitting around, smoking, talking with friends, drinking coffee and praying for something exciting to happen. Well our prayers were answered. All of a sudden the fire alarm started ringing. We made our normal preparations for the fire and hopped onto the carriage. We passed through the streets which were now full of people and other carriages. We rang our bell to try to clear the streets but no one listened. We had to get by so we cut through one of the parks which were now in full bloom. We were half way through the park when the back of carriage rolled over a rock. In a split-second we were all on the ground next to the overturned carriage. Our chief was the first one up. He picked up his helmet then fell back down on the floor. After fifteen minutes more people were starting to come back including me. My vision was slightly blurry due to the violent fall but I could make out that every one was alright except for the driver. The poor driver had half of his body stuck underneath the wheel. Blood was trickling down in the now red glass, he was surely dead. One of the firefighters saw a carriage designed for transporting injured or sick people to the only hospital in New York: Bellevue Hospital in lower Manhattan. He called them over; they saw the gravity of the incident and rushed over. A couple hours later everybody was looked over. I had a dislocated shoulder and would be out of firefighting action for three months. Surely I would never forget this day.

February 27th, 1871
          It’s been a long two years since I dislocated my shoulder. I feel very tired these days so I am not on the job as much as a few years ago. So my captain decided to send me to a school give a lecture to the students. I have been told that I have to inspire them to become firefighters; I should not talk about my recent injury because it will scare them away.
          I have been preparing my lecture in the hospital and I am actually kind of excited because I am going to get to share my dream with the kids. I remembered that I was there age when I first had the dream of being a firefighter.
          I remembered that when I was in school I didn’t have the privilege to have adults present there jobs to me. It pushed me to discover everything myself. I remember that there were those really rich kids, who always had the new stuff and they said some words I didn’t even know existed. I often wondered why they would come to the same school I went to, but never found an answer. They would get picked up in horse carriages as I would just walk back home. I now know that it was because their parents were never in Brooklyn, they were in boats almost 24/7. These kids would live with their grandparents: in Brooklyn.
          I was really anxious for this conference and as I walked and heard the applause, the lights were shining brightly at my eyes and I appeared to be in the same school I was going to when I was young. I saw some kids that were just like me and others that were rich on the outside but most probably sad, thinking about their parents.
          The conference ended up going very well and the kids seemed inspired. I was proud of myself as I walked in my old neighborhood, and I saw my old house.

November 11th, 1871

       Today because of my promotion the FDNY gave me a new house and new equipment.  My boss took me to my house. It was beautiful it was a 3 story high brick house all for me. It had a wonderful garden, 2 bathrooms, 2 bedrooms and a huge basement and garage. All this for free and just for me. I moved my things from my old house here and it fit perfectly. I was not the fancy type of person, with paintings and sculptures. I had posters and signed footballs of my favorite players. Even this fit well in my big house and beautiful house. The chief even said that my house was bigger than his, which I thought was a compliment. It was located on
Green Point Avenue
which was becoming a “cool areas”. It has all sorts of bars and restaurants where I could find girls. I wanted to be with someone because it would be lonely living in the house alone.

I had also received new equipment from my promotion. It was lighter and my suit was easier to put on. I had this sharper and bigger axe to cut down doors. This really helped because my smaller axe took me a couple of minutes to crack a door. But with one it would take me 1 minute. I also got a new pair of boots that gripped the floor when I walked so I would not fall. The best piece of new equipment was my helmet. It was light and covered all my head so if I fell I would not hurt my head.

December 3rd, 1872

          Death. The end. Two words, so similar, yet so different. Death, is sad, the end is happy. So there will be no end to this story. Only death. This is how my death came to be.
          It was an average day. I was recently promoted, and I went to check out an alarm. A little smoke, it was probably an old woman burning her dinner. Oh, how wrong I was. I walked in and started jogging up the stairs. That is when the ceiling collapsed behind me. That is when I knew it was more than a burning dinner. That was the beginning of death. I thought, and decided the only way out is  up. So I ran, ran, jumped and ran. Up, up, up, the only way to go, and I got to the top. The top floor, I got there. But now what would I do? I was on the roof. Trapped, like a deer in a hunter’s trap. The fire, the hunt, the trap, the death, I could see all similarities between them, I could see them happening to me, I was going to die. I would still try as hard as I could not to. So, amid the heat, destruction, fire, and sounds, I sat down and thought. I decided to keep my bucket of sand for now, to maybe give me a way out, but the moment I heard the fire burst out of the door, I threw the sand at the bars of death and made them retreat. Then, the sun came out from behind the clouds and set behind the horizon. Darkness thickened and the only light came from the fire. I will die in honor I told myself, and started to run. I ran in circles around the roof and found what I wanted, a water tank. I leaped through the fire, and it caught on my clothes. I took my axe and started hammering at the metal. Ah the pain I was suffering, it was like, take a ball of yarn, dip it in acid, fill it with spikes and stick it up your nose. That won’t even come close to the pain I felt. I continued my battle. I was fighting against the limits of the brain and the body. My body was burning away, and my brain was getting ready to abandon. But, then, coolness, I felt it, water. I had succeeded.  I gave it one more hit, and water rushed over me. At that moment, I couldn’t decide which was more dangerous: the raw power of Water, or the fierceness, and relentless assault of Fire.


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