Editorial: To our heroes
An open letter to the brave men and women who risk their lives to protect us from wildfire.
“Thank you” hardly seems enough for what you have given us — what you are giving us. Because of you, we get to sleep peacefully at night, and we get to do that as you charge headlong into the mouth of hell so we’ll never have to.
So, no — “thank you” is not nearly enough.
But inadequate though our thanks may be, we still offer them, and we offer them from the bottoms of our hearts.
We thank you for your selfless willingness to leave your families for days, weeks, even months at a time to brave perils most of us will only ever see in our nightmares, to risk your lives as a matter of routine so your communities can be safe.
It is impossible for most of us to fully comprehend what you do, and even more, why you do it. Maybe some of you were born to the life of a firefighter and now carry forward that proud family tradition bestowed upon you by your fathers and grandfathers. Others among you were perhaps drawn to the life of a firefighter in pursuit of a childhood dream. Still others may have landed in this line of work by way of accident or happenstance.
But we’re convinced that — regardless of your individual motivations — you share at least one common motivation: You do it, we suspect, because you’re driven to serve, because you were born among those few heroic individuals who are not content to sit on the sidelines while their friends, families and communities are in harm’s way.
And though we cannot fully grasp the perils and pitfalls you face, we are keenly aware that your work is tremendously dangerous and requires the steely determination to forge ahead into situations that would cause most to turn and run. More than that, we recognize where we’d be were it not for your heroism.
Heroism: It’s an interesting and often misused word.
Heroes are not renderings in a comic book, nor are they Hollywood actors who don capes and tights to portray invincible characters on the big screen, characters who charge into the fray because, essentially, they cannot be harmed. You can be harmed, just as any other human being can be harmed, and that fact is a big part of what makes you so heroic. You fully recognize the dangers you face, and yet, you face them anyway. In so doing, you embody the words of Mark Twain: “Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear — not absence of fear.”
So, it is not superhuman invincibility that makes you brave; rather, it is human frailty.
It’s a little ironic to consider that most of you will probably feel slightly embarrassed by our words. Were you to respond, we imagine most of you would say something along the lines of, “We’re just doing our jobs.”
We would respectfully disagree.
We’re the ones who are “just doing our jobs” when we go to our offices, our factories, our stores every morning. What you’re doing is an incalculable public service purchased through unimaginable individual sacrifice, a service that enables us to continue going to our offices, our factories, and our stores every morning.
Quite simply, you are our heroes, and we just wanted you to know that.
It’s been a very bad fire year already, and conditions seem primed for the situation to get worse before it gets better. And even though it’s you who are doing the heavy lifting, please know that we stand ready to assist you in any way we can, whether that’s providing support services or simply observing fire restrictions and doing all in our power to ensure we’re not the cause of the next fire you’ll be called upon to fight for us.
We’re behind you all the way.
We’d thought to list all the agencies and individuals who stand on the front lines of this vital effort, but were we to do that, we’d almost certainly miss some group or individual who deserves our recognition and our thanks.
So, instead, we’ll simply say it again: Thank you, to all the firefighters and support workers who are out there risking life and limb to keep us safe.
We could never be grateful enough.