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"I wish you could comprehend a wife's horror at 3 a.m. as I check her husband of 40 years for a pulse and find none. I start CPR anyway, hoping to bring him back, knowing intuitively it is too late. But wanting his wife and family to know everything possible was done to try to save his life.

"I wish you knew the unique smell of burning insulation, the taste of soot-filled mucus, the feeling of intense heat through your turnout gear, the sound of flames crackling, the eeriness of being able to see absolutely nothing in dense smoke; sensations that I've become too familiar with.

"I wish you could understand how it feels to go to work in the morning after having spent most of the night, hot and soaking wet at a multiple alarm fire.

"I wish you could read my mind as I respond to a building fire: Is this a false alarm or a working fire? How is the building constructed? What hazards await me? Is anyone trapped? Or to an EMS call - What is wrong with the patient? Is it minor or life threatening? Is the caller really in distress or is he waiting for us with a 2x4 or a gun?

"I wish you could be in the emergency room as a doctor pronounces as dead, the beautiful five-year old girl that I have been trying to save during the past 25 minutes. She will never go on her first date or say the words, 'I love you Mommy' again.

"I wish you could know the frustration I feel in the cab of the engine or my personal vehicle, the driver with his foot pressing down hard on the pedal, my arm tugging again and again at the air horn chain, as you fail to yield the right-of-way at an intersection or pull to the right in traffic. When you need us, however, your first comment upon our arrival will be, 'It took you forever to get here!'

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