By Michael Morse
I crawled out a window, and there she was. She looked peaceful, almost, once you got past the contorted limbs and pool of blood that had formed under and around her. There was no grimace on her face, no look of doubt frozen for eternity, no expression at all, really.
She must have been holding her purse when she took flight; her papers were scattered around her, some stuck to the rubber roofing, others flapping in the light breeze. Her ID was among the bills and notes and various credit cards, which were once her link to the world as we know it, now just useless pieces of paper and plastic.
They said she opened a window on the 12th floor and without a second’s hesitation went out, landing a few seconds later on the roof of a one-story building that is attached to the high-rise. The people who were in that one-story building said they heard a loud thump and wondered what had fallen.
She was gone, never had the chance to hit 50, her life coming to an abrupt end on a 95-degree summer day.
A minute after pronouncing her dead, sorting out the times, and documenting the facts, I got a call from home. It probably would have been better had I waited an hour or two to answer, but I didn’t, and as soon as I heard her voice a switch went off in my mind. The aloof, seen it all, on to the next one rescue captain went out the window, and in his place a human being reappeared.
“Are you okay?” she asked, and I surprised myself by answering honestly.
“No, not really.”
In the midst of the call, with the cops and firefighters around, it was just another body, one of hundreds that have added up over the years. A voice from home brought me back to my real self, the one who feels and thinks too much and wonders.
“Maybe you should come home?”
“Yeah, maybe I should.”
Michael Morse is a former captain with the Providence (RI) Fire Department, author, and popular columnist. His books, Rescuing Providence and Responding, are considered must-reads for people interested in EMS and the fire service. His latest book, Mr. Wilson Makes it Home, was published in February 2015.