As I was reading about the investigation, I was watching the salute to 19 firefighters in Arizona who were killed in a horrific fire in that state, while they were doing something most of us could not or would not do. But if you need steroids to do it, God help us all.
Steroids are for imbeciles. Firefighters are not imbeciles. In my house, they are heroes.
We lost our home in Cobb County to fire on Jan. 2, 1986 (How about that for a wonderful way to start one’s New Year?), and I will never forget the efforts of our local fire precinct. By the time the trucks rolled up, our house was a lost cause. No need to go into painful details but a rogue pilot light in proximity to automobiles full of gasoline and lots of paint cans made the place a towering inferno before the firefighters could even get their hoses out.
What endures of that traumatic morning was the cool efficiency of the fire fighters. I can still remember how calm they were while I was a borderline basket case trying to tell them how to do their job. (Even in a crisis beyond my control, I still think I am in control. It’s in my genes.)
The firemen — and they were all men — were neither rude nor brusque. They simply led me off to one side and suggested I stay there while they fought the fire.
In retrospect, that was good advice.
Most gratifying to my family was that later that morning they found our photographs amid the detritus of the fire. As I understand it, fires seemingly extinguished will sometimes reignite, so firefighters toss books and papers and scraps of wood in a pile and hose it again just to be sure. In the debris were our photo albums. They saw them. We didn’t. I’m not sure there is anything in their training that says they have to help you recover your precious photographs, but these guys did. For that we will forever be grateful.
So, you see, I have a — pardon the pun — warm spot in my heart for Cobb County’s firefighters. And for good reason. They saved our lives and the memories of our lives.
As I read Gillooly’s report, I deduced that none of the firefighters currently being investigated were on the payroll at the time of our fire. Perhaps those that showed up on that cold January morning have since retired or are behind a desk or are still fighting fires.
But I trust that none of them were popping pills while they were doing what they could for two frightened people who were in the process of watching their home disintegrate.
I’m not sure why anybody has to use steroids. Even someone with the IQ of a stump can understand the lasting damage steroids can do to one’s body. If professional athletes want to go the steroid route, who cares? They add not one thread to the fabric of our society, except to amuse us like Roman gladiators.
Firefighters and police officers? That’s a different story. This would be a pretty scary place without them. We can never pay them what they are worth for protecting us and our possessions. Why do they do it? I suspect they feel they have a calling. I have often said that to be a doctor, a minister, a teacher or in public safety, you must have more than an ordinary commitment.
That is why even having to have to investigate allegations of steroid use disturbs me. Whether on duty or not, there is no place for that kind of poor judgment.
Firefighters and police officers aren’t doing routine work. They put their lives on the line for us each and every day. And we need to trust that when we need them, they will be there for us clearheaded, focused and steroid-free.
The tragic loss of the 19 firefighters reminds us all of the inherent dangers of the job. I hope the universal outpouring of grief and respect of the nation for the actions of those brave souls in Arizona as well as my eternal gratitude for being there when my family and I needed them will let Cobb County’s firefighters know that they require no pills to make them special people.
They are my heroes. And I pray what I have read turns out to be a big misunderstanding.
You can reach Dick Yarbrough at firstname.lastname@example.org or P.O. Box 725373, Atlanta, Georgia 31139.