My father-in-law has told me the story a hundred times. When he was a Captain he worked with a firefighter who was an incorrigible drunk. My father-in-law disiplined him, lectured him, reasoned with him. Nothing worked. He was determined to have this man transfered out of his firehouse.

Then came the fire. A ladder was raised to the roof line. Three men went up, this drinker being the last of them. A window exploded. The first two men rolled down the ladder head over heels and would have been killed if the man did not take an iron grip of the beams of the ladder and let the men slam into his chest. He saved two lives.

Eventually he drank himself to death. But in this moment and others like it, he was a hero. And he is remembered as such.

First responders see extraordinary things in people. The bravery of a knight, the patience of a priest, the generosity of a rich uncle. I love them all, even the ones I argued with or sometimes even wanted to punch. Because they answered the bell.

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