Fire Life

We Happy Few

By Michael Morse

The world we inhabit is full of problems, danger, and unsavory characters. It is also full of solutions, tranquility, and genuinely nice people. Since the beginning of time, the tug of war between good and evil has occupied and at times nearly overwhelmed humanity’s existence. We have survived some dark periods, yet the world is still full of unsavory characters. Nonetheless, I know without a doubt that the good guys are winning, and it feels great to be able to contribute to the never-ending struggle by promoting peace on earth and goodwill toward men ….

“Engine Co. 9 and Rescue 1, respond to ‘The Waterfront’ for an assault, male bleeding from the head.”

We drop what we are doing and go, with no idea what awaits. The Providence, Rhode Island, waterfront has been struggling, more of an industrial area than a tourist spot, but a few bright spots have appeared.

“Engine 9 and Rescue 1 on scene, with police.”

A 35-year-old guy sits in the lobby of a waterfront hotel, one shoe missing and bleeding from a cut on his head. Three police officers are with him, asking questions. I put a bandage on the wound and hand him an ice bag. The police ask the usual questions: How many assailants? Can you describe them? What direction did they go in after the robbery and assault? The man answers the best he can, doesn’t want to go to the hospital, but his forehead needs stitches, and his head pain in increasing.

“I just paid $300 for some orthopedic implants for my shoes,” he says, before we get going. One of the police officers who had been scouring the waterfront for clues hands him an IPad.

“I didn’t find your cell phone, shoe, or wallet, but this was under the bench you were sitting on. Is it yours?”

The guy thankfully takes the device, turns it on, and looks relieved. We get him into the ambulance, do the vitals and all, then drive 100 feet to the scene of the mugging and light it up with the side scene lights. Brian and I join the cops as we search the area for his shoe, hopefully his cell phone, and just maybe the wallet–minus the cash. After 10 minutes, we give up; hopefully, with daylight the stuff will appear.

On the way to the ER, the guy tells me he’s from Georgia, visiting Providence for a builder’s convention downtown, staying until Thursday. Now, he has no cash, no ID, no credit cards, no phone, and no way to get onto the Southwest Airlines return flight. He’s truly stranded in Providence.

“Thank you guys,” he says as we roll down the bumpy roadway toward the hospital. “You have been a lot of help. I really appreciate it.”

Little things. By doing a little extra, spending a few more moments trying to help a stranger out, we turned an absolutely miserable night for somebody into a bearable one. I’m sure that this man will eventually get home and put this trip behind him. I hope that as he tells the story of the nightmare in Providence to his friends and family, he mentions that the police, firefighters, and medics did all they could to make things better. At the end of the day, that is what we do–make things better. Seems like a small gesture in the big scheme of things, but it is anything but.

“We few. We happy few.”

Not many people get the opportunity to respond to other people’s emergencies and, by doing so, participate in the age-old struggle of good vs. evil. By taking every opportunity that presents itself to stem the tide of discontent; disillusionment; and good old-fashioned beatings, robberies, fires, accidents, and disease, we do our part in keeping that fragile balance tipped on the side of good. Yes, it’s all in a day’s work, but knowing that at the end of the day the work we do means far more than simply showing up for a day’s wages makes what we do more meaningful than I ever imagined.


Michael Morse is a former captain with the Providence (RI) Fire Department (PFD), an author, and a popular columnist. He served on PFD’s Engine Co. 2., Engine Co. 9, and Ladder Co. 4 for 10 years prior to becoming an EMT-C on Rescue Co 1 and Captain of Rescue Co. 5.