By Michael Morse
In an old tenement house in the inner city at ten till midnight, a baby wakes, struggling to breathe. When everything his mother tries isn’t enough and her son continues to struggle, she calls 911. Ten blocks away, the tone sounds at the Broad Street Fire Station, sending The Bullies into the night for another rescue run. They roll out of the bay 30 seconds later, four veteran firefighters, their turnout gear picked up from the floor and taken along, sitting next to them as they speed through the quiet streets. A mile away, Rescue 1 leaves the Allen’s Avenue Fire Station toward the same address.
Engine 10 arrives first, a combined 80 years of firefighting experience among them. I’ve known these guys for 20 years, have seen them at fires, and have worked alongside them. You will not find a tougher bunch anywhere. They enter the house looking for the patient.
A few minutes later, Rescue 1 arrives on scene. I key the mic and copy the report, a two-year-old infant in respiratory distress. Inside the home, I find The Bullies crowded around the little boy, one of them holding the child on his knee, another holding oxygen close, and the other two doing anything they can to help. The mother is nervous; she has a four-year-old with cerebral palsy in the next bedroom. She lives alone; the father left her when he realized his son “wasn’t right.”
The Bullies bundle the boy up, make sure he has a warm blanket, and take him to the rescue while I make sure the mom is okay and the other boy is taken care of. He goes upstairs to the landlord’s house to stay until his family returns.
Inside the rescue, the baby has captured the firefighters’ attention. He’s still on the knee of one of them when I enter the rig–smiling, laughing, enthralled by all the attention. His breathing has improved, his color returned to normal. We get him secured, seat belt the mom, and get ready to go. The firefighters leave as soon as they know the baby “is right.” Then, he starts to cry. He doesn’t stop until we get to Hasbro Children’s Hospital. The firefighters, without trying or doing anything but being who they are, have made another friend.
Sleep tight, Providence. There are Saints in the heart of the city, thinly disguised as Bullies.
Michael Morse, a Providence (RI) Fire Department member for 22 years, writes about his experiences as a firefighter on Engine Co. 2, 7, and 9 and Ladder Co. 7 and 4, as well as his time on Rescue Co. 1 as a lieutenant and Rescue Co. 5, where he is currently captain. He lives with his wife Cheryl seven minutes from his station, which, fortunately for him, is “worlds away.”