Later on, my eyes welled up with tears again, as we heard that two firefighters, Michael R. Kennedy and Edward J. Walsh, Jr., had made the ultimate sacrifice as they tried to stop the fire and save other people's lives.
My friend Andrew Marc Greene (530nm330hz) said the following on Facebook:
I will never understand what gives a person the courage to run into a burning building, to put his own life at risk in the hope of saving others. I can merely be humbled and grateful that others do. Baruch Dayan ha-Emet.
I had been thinking of similar words, from a powerful story. And I want to share them.
After 9/11, some of the major comic book artists and writers contributed to two tribute books, the proceeds of which were donated to charity. One of those writers was Kurt Busiek, who wrote an Astro City story called "Since the Fire." With his permission, I'm going to discuss it and quote it here. I still urge all of you to track it down, as it is much more powerful with Brent Anderson's art.
The story is about a boy named Farrell, who almost died when his family's apartment got set on fire during a fight among super-powered people. Farrell almost died, but a firefighter named Arnie Prentice rescued him and then went back inside the building to save other people. Because Prentice went back in, he lost a leg and now walks on crutches (and presumably can't work as a firefighter any more).
In the story, Farrell's father takes him to meet Prentice for the first time since the fire, so the boy can thank him. And then Farrell asks Prentice why he was willing to risk his life to save him, and why he was willing to go back inside and would do it again, even though it cost him a leg.
Prentice looks somber for a moment, and then says:
Because someone's got to do it. And better that it's someone trained, skilled, and equipped to have the best chance of getting kids like you out.
Take a look around. All these people, they're livin' their lives, and they do what they do, and sleep a little easier because of guys like me and the others back there. The superheroes flying' around, they're okay -- but they can't always be there. We gotta take care of ourselves.
And when you're in a jam, like you were --
-- you want to hear that siren, you want to know someone'll come help. That you're not on your own.
I'd want to know that at least.
And the story ends with Prentice visiting the graves of the two firefighters who got him out.
Anyway, that's what I was thinking about yesterday, and I hugged my kids a little tighter. Kurt, thank you for the words and the permission to quote them.