Rescue 1, Responding

By Michael Morse

Then there’s the little girl whose life has unraveled before she has had a chance to live it. Her father is sick and living in a high-rise, only he is not embracing his existence. Flawed as it may be, he’s thinking only of himself, and his drug and alcohol addiction, and smoking, and drinking his days away while his daughter wanders lost through the streets of Providence.

She’s walked for hours. She’s cold, lonely, and afraid. And she’s dangerously depressed, but nobody knows that, least of all her father, because she is afraid of upsetting him. Eventually her solitary journey leads her to the highway. She walks up the on-ramp, not really knowing why, only knowing that she needs to keep moving.

Cars pass her, spraying freezing water and road salt onto her clothes and skin as they speed by. The on-ramp has a railing, about waist high. As the world moves on around her, she leans on it, then leans over it and falls 30 feet, crashing onto the pavement below her.

“Rescue 1 and Engine 10, Respond to Broad and Prairie for a person who has fallen off an overpass, injuries unknown.”

We’re in the truck in seconds and on scene in a minute. As we approach, I see a number of people on the overpass, looking down. Thirty feet below them is a crumbled heap. Horrified onlookers form a semi-circle around the heap, but nobody goes near it. Police cars converge, and Engine 10 is heard in the distance, approaching fast. We glove up, and go to work.

She is screaming but miraculously still conscious. There is no gross deformity, no hemorrhaging. The primary assessment is unremarkable; I gently turn her, straighten her, and roll her and secure her to the board. I take off her earrings and necklace, matching silver angels, and place them next to her head. We get her into the truck, cover her with blankets, and cut off her wet clothes. Still no blood, except for a finger that appears scraped.

Maybe I should leave the angels on.

Before we leave the scene, I take another look at the place she fell. People are still on the highway looking down. I stand on the railroad tracks that are immersed in the pavement, calculate the distance best I can, and come up with the same number: at least 30 feet, maybe 40. I can’t believe she’s alive. The police have talked to people on scene and they confirm the girl’s story. She definitely jumped, and fell, and should have died.

I talked with her hours later as she sat in the trauma room, waiting for test results. She fractured her pelvis and tailbone. The pain medications loosened her up enough to tell me what had happened and why. I only spent a few minutes with her before the X-ray people came in for some more pictures. She took my hand before I could leave.

“Should I tell them I might be pregnant?”

“You need to tell somebody.”

She’s only 18 and has nobody. Her father couldn’t be reached.

I’d like to reach her father. I’d reach over and wring his worthless little neck until his eyes bulged out of their sockets, and then maybe he would see more than his own miserable little world and start acting like a man.

Instead, I reached for my radio.

“Rescue 1, back in service,” and another one came in, and we responded.


Michael Morse recently retired from his position as captain, Rescue Co. 5, with the Providence (RI) Fire Department after 23 years. He lives a few miles from his old station with his wife, Cheryl, a couple of Maine Coon cats and their dog, Mr. Wilson. He writes about his experiences as a firefighter/EMT in his books, Rescuing Providence and Responding, and contributes articles to many fire/EMS-related publications.

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