Danger provides its own reward

Published 6:23 am Friday, May 27, 2016

I like my job. One of the reasons I do is because I get to hear quite a few stories in my line of work. Who doesn’t like a good story?

On Wednesday, I got to spend a fair bit of the morning in a watermelon patch (but more about that after the story comes out) and last week I got to walk through Cassidy Park with our lieutenant governor. Of course, there are also the government meetings. But recently, I had the opportunity to speak with some volunteer firefighters who told me the story of a water rescue gone wrong on March 11.

It would be easy to say that these men went beyond the call of duty when they tried to rescue a man trapped by raging floodwaters but, as Chief Kenny Nichols himself pointed out, they were just doing what they’d signed up to do — to help out. They’re firefighters, after all. Don’t we expect such daring and risk from our first responders?

And while they didn’t battle a fire on March 11, I should say here that by “helping out,” these men risked their lives in floodwater and found themselves stranded on tree branches for hours while they awaited rescue.

I think every one of us would like to think we would do whatever it took to save someone or do the right thing. I know I would like to think I would like to have the presence of mind to remain calm and go forward into danger on behalf of someone else.

But, to be honest, I don’t know that I’ve even had an opportunity to make such a decision one way or another. I cannot point to any particular example in my own life where I have acquitted myself with much bravery or selflessness. I have no idea how I would stand under proverbial fire. I can’t be alone in this lacking.

How many times does the average person face such a decision, anyway? In the neat and tidy civilian world, only should we perchance stumble upon some terrible accident or tragedy would we face a test of ourselves. Thankfully, serious car accidents and tragedies do not happen with much frequency around here.

And so while it is right and natural for the community to honor the volunteer firefighters and the sheriff’s deputies for what they did March 11, I suspect those men have earned a more meaningful reward — the knowledge of what they would do when faced with serious danger and potential catastrophe.

I don’t say most of us would have done anything different. Maybe we all would have willingly attempted a water rescue and then remained calm while stuck in a tree. Maybe so.

But we don’t know, because we weren’t there. And most of us never will be there, either.

Jesse Wright is the managing editor at The Daily News. You can email him at jesse.wright@bogalusadailynews.com.