By Michael Morse
My cousin Caroline, a teacher at the Broad Street School, right in the heart of my first-in district, asked me if I could visit her kindergarten class with the fire truck. She thought her students would love it. I agreed, and we set a date and time. I explained that I had transferred from Engine Co. 9 to Rescue Co. 1 a year ago, and the advanced life support fire department vehicle with lights, sirens, a stretcher, and lots of fun medical gadgets that I would be bringing to her kids would be even more fun than a boring old fire truck. After pleading unsuccessfully for me to arrange for the fire engine to come with us, she reluctantly agreed.
My partner Brian suggested that it might be a good idea to have the crew from Engine Co. 13 join us, as in his experience little kids love and respect fire trucks and firefighters.
“Nonsense,” I said. “All children understand the importance and awesomeness of ambulances, and every child worth half his weight in bandages wants to be a paramedic when they grow up!”
As soon as Rescue 1 showed up, it was abundantly clear that the kids loved the ambulance! My cousin, who is trained and actually quite adept at keeping a hoard of five- and six-year-olds under control relinquished command of her class to me. They could not get enough of my ambulance and climbed all over the inside, messed up the stretcher, got their greasy little fingerprints on everything, played with things they shouldn’t have been touching, and created such sweet mayhem I just couldn’t make them stop.
Honestly, I couldn’t make them stop! I ordered them to stop, demanded they stop, cried, begged and stomped my feet, but the madness continued, unabated.
Brian, 20 years younger than me, a black belt in karate, and a commanding presence, managed to rein them in long enough to show them how to operate the sirens and lights. Then he stepped back; snorted a sinister chuckle; said something about kids loving ambulances; and stood alongside my cousin, shook his head in dismay, and watched as my “firetruck” was completely ransacked. I was overwhelmed. The lights and sirens were bad enough, but when they found the radio and figured out how to use it, I surrendered. After wrestling the mic out of their little fingers, I issued a Mayday:
“Rescue 1 to Fire Alarm, have Engine 13 respond to The Broad Street School Code C to assist the rescue on scene.”
“Roger Rescue 1, nature for the incoming company?”
There! That should settle the little creatures down. In my head I imagined my saviors cresting the hill at the corner of Broad and Eddy, deck gun pumping 1000 gallons of water a minute, kindergarten kids being swept up in the flood, Brian and Cousin Caroline with their smug little grins washed off of their smug little faces and me, back in control of Rescue Co. 1!
I let the mayhem continue, knowing salvation was a minute away.
(1) Me and my grandson, Jaxon Chase.
“A real firetruck!” shouted one of the kids, and I knew my time in hell was nearly through. The little fiends dropped me and my ambulance like a hot potato and formed a single file line at Cousin Caroline’s request, stood like little awestruck angels as Engine Co. 13 slowed to a stop at the curb. One by one they asked questions, and the firefighters obliged, let them sit in the driver’s seat, let them touch certain things but not others, showed them how the truck worked, made them laugh, smile and jump for joy. And when the firefighters operated to pump for them, and let the kids use the booster line, guess who got wet? If you guessed the kids, you guessed wrong. Very wrong.
Anyway, fun was had by all, and everybody learned something from our visit. Except for me, I still insist kids would love ambulances if not for the fire truck always showing up and stealing the show!
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.