(Thanks Steve Spring editor of my original version entitled Diary Of A Fireman)
I spent a dozen years firefighting in Central New Jersey. I don’t think anybody really knows what that type of work is, unless they’re doing it themselves, or they are the family or best friends of a fireman. This memoir in no means can do justice for my firefighting experiences themselves. Since my firefighting era was 1993 to 2005, it has since been a long time since I’ve boarded a Fire Engine or Fire Truck. So, though some parts of the memories may be rusty, I hope that my readers will enjoy this true story of mine.
From The Fire Memoirs comes-
A Fireman’s Story
Thinking back, I enjoyed days that ended with thoughts of experiences and lessons from that day because they refocused me.
When I’d focus, I’d remember for years, the majority of my time in Emergency Services always surrounded by amazing human beings around me. Many solid Firefighters, talented, trusted in danger, educated, brave, safe and each had their little niche of education in various subjects of firefighting all to make diverse knowledge with every major point of knowledge represented.
They were very best at what they do. Every time they’d do it, it was better than last time.
These men were the ultimate definition of being Alive. Living for one reason; PASSION; Existence fueled by loving work that’s scary, inhuman, & most people are afraid of it.
Their hearts were flooded with the sincerest of sincere love and courage to save lives, fight fires and save/protect property. A True example of love; A royal marriage.
Is it til death do we Part?
This story’s about take some different turns and curves. One that take us away from parts that resemble fairy tales. Now, we begin heading towards more inhumane places. Places where a god given passion can be unfairly, unjustly and abruptly taken from you. Pure evidence that life is not fair.
Forced to wander through life without a purpose, just lost. A life sentence of purpose and passion being permanently gone. With that sentence includes cruel reminders every day. In our face, unavoidable.
A Daily reliving of the first day my firefighting was lost. Every day, I have to Mourn from the beginning again.
Pictures in this preview detail and document real life disasters, training events, emergency scenes and fires I experienced & worked at. Some results endings tragically, with others blessed to have results wonderful and miraculous. The visions in photos a are still telling stories of the greatest time ever in my life.
Flashback to that era of my life, a dozen years I rarely talk of or write about. The adventure beginning late 1993 I was young, with one significant advantage over others kids my age (high school, 16, 17 yrs old). That one special advantage and privilege was that, I was a Firefighter. A real Firefighter; Certified by The State Of New Jersey.
Being a Firefighter at that age was like being Superman.
There is no reputation better than that of a firefighter. It equalled courage, discipline, respect For authority, a skill for following procedures, and a love for helping people.
People had faith and confidence that if an emergency arose, you were their go to guy who’d solve whatever was wrong.
None of us had thoughts of worry. Nobody had Depression or Anxiety. BiPolar still wasn’t even invented yet. Being on psych, or any type of prescription was very rare; maybe one or two. Or just when sick. A far cry from the new norm of 6 yo 7 daily medications.
A sure fire way to compare different times of your life find out which time better; just go to your medicine cabinet, count your daily prescriptions. Now, just compare it to the number of meds you had to take daily at that other time. Whichever time had more daily meds; is the WORSE of the 2 times.
The Passion was always consuming, but we never gave a shit. It wasn’t work. It was a constant 24/7 adventure, party, social club, getaway from home, our place to become super heroes and it was a life where there was always somewhere to be during of the day’s 24 hours.
A revolving life where we were the busiest people in town even when we weren’t doing anything. Our lives, school, other jobs, family parties, holidays & our clocks revolved around & answered to one thing; the Fire Department.
You either were committed to the highest, or you felt like you were missing something or left out. The Firehouse was what managed life. Every part of my life, had a direct connection to the fire service. All friends and acquaintances were firefighters. There was never a need for that circle to grow outside of itself. We never wanted to go outside the circle anyway.
Living The 24/7, 365 Dream
Finding firefighting was the greatest gift from God. It led me to the favorite years of my life. Unfortunately, the decisions we make, dictate the lives we lead. I’ll never be able to duplicate it again. That natural high that I will never be able to recreate again. It’s all just residual memories.
My Times in the Fire Service began to peak around 1999. That peak lasted all the way until the last minute before I had to say good bye to the fire service. When an ending is abrupt like that was, it’s equivalent to a locomotive hitting a brick wall at 110 mph.
Then sadly, I lost it, the purpose, the identity, the one looked up to, all lost. Nobody to blame but me.
This Story is the fuel & feelings feeding that internal weight, heavy as 10 tons. No man could ever lift. Nor any doctor, medication, or therapist. I hope this story’s the key to release some of what is stuck inside.
I lived through some of the toughest shit life can throw; addictions, suicide attempt, relapses, major depressive disorder, crawling through house fires, riding a 35 ton fire truck at 70 mph, hanging off the side, PTSD, more relapsing, driving and hanging around ghettos and slums, anxiety, relapse again, taking overloads of cocaine, heroin, and much more, and I beat Hep C but, One battle remains. For the past dozen years, every single day, I relieve the pain & grief from scratch.
There are brighter ways to look at it. It was a God given privilege to had ever been able to be a fireman. I can live my life, and confidently know that, for 12 years, I was a firefighter & I gave my very best to it. I received 4 CPR Save Awards, during those years. Even much huger honors are, at the young age of 21 years old, I was a Lieutenant, and at 25 years old a Captain. I did my best, and I made good decisions in all the diverse situations.
I always am sure to remember, that I was never the best of all. I was not the greatest firefighter in the world. But I did my best. And I was surrounded by very talented Firefighters.
It was incredible contributing my part in keeping A Fire Department operating as a well oiled machine. Tens of thousands of hours together. Seeing death doing CPR, saving lives, sometimes failed, made mistakes & but also made great split second decisions. When a split second life or death decisions, results in success, that is the truest, purest message that at those moments, I was God’s #1 priority, over the worlds billions.
To be out of that world, doesn’t even seem real.
The era was one I’d always expected would be eternal. Always thought, assumed, passionately wanted and desired that the Fire Service would be with me until the day I die.
Never as a teen and in my early 20’s would I ever begin to fathom that my life at 41 years old is a life that doesn’t allow me to save lives anymore. And it’s been 12 years off fire trucks. I’d never had believed it possible.
Now I’ve been without it for just as long as I actually did it; from beginning to end. I yearn for a way to forget It, erase it all. I wish my brain could reset and erase all thoughts, memories, knowledge and love of firefighting.
It’s sad and depressing I’m wishing that I could forget all about, what was once the greatest love, I would ever have. My only true love. The only marriage I ever wanted.
From passion, to true love,
To then wishing I never knew it.
Today my life can be a visual & audio torture each day. Fire trucks and sirens everyday; it’s like waving drugs in front of a severely active addict.
I hope (like with all my work in my personal portfolio and library) this story helps and inspires all who read it. You can just take from this tale what you need, and leave the rest.
My mission is to give my readers an honest accounting and understanding of the thousands of experiences disasters, emergency scenes, situations that took us mortal men beyond normal human’s capability comprehension and ability. It is not work, but insteads it is a passion that is both beautiful, and destructive on the brain of a firefighter.
The most important thing for this piece is painting a picture that’s clearer than ever before. I want readers physically feeling the amazing, painful, life altering and powerful feelings the Fire Service can give. Example of the loneliness of a true loved passion gone.
Thanks to the ones who knew I’d be a Firefighter. You made me believe it too. You supported, inspired, & encouraged me. Loved ones thank you for the understanding in all my lost family time; your patience showed when I left the family for Fires on Christmas, or a major car accidents on thanksgiving. Friends & Family had pride in me during my crazy fireman years.
When I was in dangerous situations, the motivation for my survival, was I had to remember to survive, so I could get home, to those who were worrying and concerned.
I was never the greatest of all time, but I always gave my best. I felt privileged every day that I did Fireman’s Work.
A gift of God. The true definition of “God’s Work.”
My family & I are forever eternally thankful
that my best, was best enough.
-MICHAEL PATANELLA, Author, Advocate & Past Firefighter 1993 -2005
We honor you, Michael Patanella.