Life with a First Responder Facing an Intangible Enemy

My husband leads a double life - but not in the way you think. He's a lawyer by day, volunteer firefighter by night. He attends weekly training sessions, sits on numerous committees, and occasionally lends his legal services to some of the members.  Over his nearly 28 years of service (he's been doing this since he was 14 years old!), he has encountered a variety of different calls: fires, fumes, flooding and yes, even a cat stuck in a tree.  He has responded to calls at the peak of an ice storm and has slept overnight on the floor of the firehouse in anticipation of major weather events.

These past two months, I've been reminded of the most frightening time of his career - Hurricane Sandy. For three nights straight (with the little sleep he got from crashing on the floor of the firehouse), he answered hundreds of calls during the storm while I bunkered in our basement with our two toddlers and three month old. I sat there terrified as I watched the emergency warnings flash across my cell phone, listening to the pounding rain and prayed the old trees along the side of the yard wouldn't collapse onto our home.  Even now, thinking about what happened during those few nights in 2012, makes my heart rate spike and my chest tighten.  I was scared for myself, my kids, and of course, for him.  Mainly, I was scared of high winds, rain, and falling trees - tangible things that would and did eventually subside, be cleared by a bulldozer, and stop. Much of these fears would eventually be an afterthought as normal life resumed within days.

However, since March, I am scared of his pager going off for a different reason: an intangible enemy.  A microscopic virus that is potentially lurking on every piece of equipment in the firehouse, living undetected in one of his fellow firefighter's bodies or worse, following him home.  I have no certainty that he is 100% safe or that we are 100% safe when he comes through the front door.  He has had no training for situations like this one, as few of us do.  Unlike the days following Sandy, there is no certainty when our lives will return to how they once were. The only thing I have is trust that he and his fellow first responders are following the health and safety guidelines set by county officials and faith that his intelligence and common sense will keep us all safe.

Although we are in scary times, there has been some good that has come out of this.  Every day, I see Facebook posts from the fire department and police department showing the generosity of our small community.  People have provided everything from face masks to pizza lunches, even yard signs thanking our first responders and front liners.  Of course, if you are able, I advocate making donations of PPE masks or hand sanitizer to your local first responders and front line personnel.  Even if you are not in such a position to donate a tangible good, a quick note of thanks goes a long way.