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LETTERS: Everyday sights trigger firefighters' haunted memories

The primary mission of the Newton County Fire Service is to provide a wide range of programs and training designed to protect the lives and property of Newton County residents and visitors. As I began to write this article, statistics were collected along with highlights of the fire service. I re-evaluated my writings for a few minutes, scrapped those ideas and decided to share the mind of an emergency servant.

As a firefighter, one cannot recall the multiple emergency incidents that they have under their belt. Every incident a firefighter responded to was absorbed by their senses and forever stamped into their memories. Most firefighters will remember some emergency incidents by date, name, street, holiday or season. Some calls start to slip out of recollection over time. However, there are constant reminders that make those memories surface. When driving by a house, down a road, past a business, by an open field or a body of water, an emergency servant's first thoughts are not of a beautiful home, a product manufactured, a field of fresh hay or a lake shimmering from the sun. Each visual prompt, particular sound or familiar smell causes their mind to rapidly transport back into incidents all firefighters would just as soon forget. Where most see a new house now standing, a firefighter recalls the night a fatal house fire was fought as a family hopelessly watched.

When you ride your neighborhood roads you admire the place you live. The same roads a firefighter travels return thoughts of extricating mangled bodies from senseless wrecks. A promising business can jar the image where an enterprising citizen was robbed and shot when a firefighter was called to render aid. Fields where children play and tractors labor, bring forth visions of an emergency helicopters landing to rush a traumatically injured teenager from an ATV crash and into the sky. The bodies of beautiful waters are drowning with memories of someone's child who was just going for a cool swim when they never surfaced.

Being an emergency servant is not just a job, it is a life-altering commitment. The sacrifice is not just of time, but of bravery, commitment, health, being and mind. The vow is to serve with everything that is in them, every time. At this very moment, as you conclude reading this perspective, an emergency servant loyally had a distressing image, stout aroma, and disquieting sound tattooed into their memory, forever.

With the month of September behind us, the fire service of 75 employees with a handful of active volunteers has now responded to 4,991 emergency calls. The number of people affected from each emergency call will stream far into the future. All accidents can be prevented. Be proactive in prevention and reacting to an emergency can fade into our history books.

-- Lt. Cydnie Taylor-Ridling

Newton County Fire Service