The Fire Ninja exorcises the ghosts of past incidents
on 28 October, 2014

Warning: some readers may find this blog disturbing.

The sun was bright that day. The kind of brightness that makes you squint and squinch up your face when you walk outside. The sun was unobstructed as the sky was filled with atmospheric blue and not a single wisp of cloud.

The alarm had come in like all the rest. We rushed, sirens screaming, horns blaring to the scene of the accident and now we found ourselves on the shoulder of the highway, talking in broken sentences due to the semis that hurtled by us only feet away.

‘They’re dead. They’re all dead.’

An ambulance crew had arrived before us and the field supervisor had already surveyed the twisted shell of what had once been a Honda Accord. It had come to rest on its wheels, as if lowered gently in the tall grass that surrounded the irrigation canal. The shattered windshield pointed towards the west into countless fields of sugar cane.

My partner and I walked up to the vehicle and leaned over to look inside. The driver, most certainly the mother, was definitely dead behind the wheel. Peering through the shattered safety glass of the rear compartment, we also saw two young boys, limp and lifeless, arms and legs at impossible angles.

As I rounded towards the front of the car, I saw the recognizable spider pattern in the driver’s side windshield. Red ringed the inner most circle and hair was visible in every fissure. Seatbelts and airbags have come a long way, but the glass spider web is still a common feature of modern vehicle collisions. What’s not as common are large holes. There was a large hole in the glass on the passenger side. I looked closer at the hole and it too was ringed with blood and hair, but as I focused through the hole and back into the passenger compartment, the first thing I saw was the child seat.

In my dreams, the sun is always so bright.

There is a hidden rhythm to the trucks catapulting by us.

A pulse.

The green of the grass is intense. Lush, deep and vibrant.

She was 30 yards from the car. I see the sun shining on the grass and reflecting off of the canal nearby, and then I see the tiny pink jump-suit and an illogical mass of wheat blond hair. Face down as if simply taking a nap. Tiny hands beside her. Tiny legs with tiny shoes. I approach to verify what I’m already sure of and I before I can reach down to assess a pulse… I awake.

I’ve dreamt that vision at least once a month now, going on close to 13 years. Whatever mechanism that controls our dreams thankfully exempts me from having to relive the part where I touch the child and realize the true horror of her grisly outcome. But being there in dreamscape, with the brightness of mid-day sun, the pulse of traffic, the whispering, tall grass and then…the tiny pink jumpsuit laying perfectly still….I’m not sure how much I was spared.

As far as recurring dreams go, I guess I got off pretty lucky. Out of the hundreds of gruesome incidents that I’ve worked, there are really only two that have stuck with me for more than a year or two. It wasn’t always like that though. I used to be; ‘visit’ quite frequently and there came a time when I really struggled with developing a coping mechanism. Some men try to drink these visions away, some are able to seek peace in their chosen religions. For me (while I tried my best at the drinking strategy) it was writing that exorcised my ghosts. I learned to carry a journal and I would purge my head of these visions by writing them down. Somehow it works for me and I’ve recommended it to colleagues throughout the years. Whatever may end up working for you, just don’t kid yourself into thinking that you can shake them off.

In the fundamental nature of our physical being, it’s not natural to see the types of things that we see as emergency responders. Unnatural equals unhealthy in our case, so do yourself a favor, don’t go it alone, don’t drink it away and don’t attempt to ignore. Find an outlet. Talk to a friend. Call for a debriefing. If not solely for yourself, than for the loved ones that we return home to after shift. They don’t deserve to deal with your haunted head.

Standing by in the shadows,

~ Fire Ninja

  • Operation Florian

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