Earlier this week, Boston began to mourn the tragedy of the death of two firefighters, who died on Wednesday, March 26 while fighting a fire and saving victims.
The death of a firefighter is something that is felt not only by those who knew him or her but also by the entire city or community. Upon hearing the news on Thursday morning that two firefighters had died in Wednesday’s fire, I felt awful. Firefighters are not people you have to know in order to mourn their passing. There is an unspoken understanding that anyone who would die for you, without even knowing you, is worthy of your grief, without even knowing them.
All day Thursday, I couldn’t help but shake the feeling. I remembered meeting members of the two fallen firefighters’ firehouse, very randomly, at a hockey game last year. The two-degrees of separation added to my feeling down. Firefighters live among the community as otherwise ordinary citizens, and when they work, their work is extraordinary.
Yesterday, I boarded the shuttle home from school when I noticed an unusually large number of firetrucks outside. My first thought, quite honestly, was that another tragedy had happened. Eventually, as the shuttle moved away, I realized the line of trucks stretched for miles, and hundreds of firefighters were lining up, solemnly, on the streets to salute the body of their fallen brother, as his body was escorted from the medical examiner’s office to the funeral home.
As the shuttle pulled away, I felt a tangible urge to get off at the next stop and walk back. And I did. I, too, wanted to stand along the streets in reverence. As my friends and I watched the procession, we were all moved, and many people were moved to tears. Again, they didn’t know this man, either. Again, that point really didn’t matter.
Lent is about giving things up, yes. But this week, I was reminded about giving up, well, everything. There are a select few among us that risk giving up their lives every day, simply by going into work. Undoubtedly, Lent is a time of self-denial and sacrifice. Undoubtedly, sacrifice is their way of life.