Its 3 am and I am awakened by the whole room shaking. Living in Florida, there are many occasions that the room has shaken. A really good storm would do it. And me…being as in love with storms as I am, decide to get up and watch the world move and shake.
I pull my body from the bed, leaving behind the possibilities of ever getting back to sleep again and I pull open the glass doors to the balcony. Then I hear it. The scream sounded like it was yanked from deep within ones soul. I bent over the balcony to see what was happening. It was dark and I didn't immediately see the car embedded into the first floor of our apartment building. There were people running around all trying to yell above everyone else. So much bustling at so early in the morning. I thought about going downstairs to see if I could help but decided that there were enough good intentioned people down there and why should I add myself to the mix?
Over the yelling I could hear the sirens making their way through the abandoned streets to save the day and make the yelling stop. Slowly they pull in…a couple of police cars….an ambulance…and a huge fire truck.
I sat quietly on my balcony and watched everything unfold. I thought about the fear and pain that those 2 young women in the car were feeling. I watched as one threw herself onto the pavement, overwrought with the reality of the situation. The other just seemed in a daze…wandering back and forth…seemingly looking for something. One of the police men went to her while the fire fighters checked out the damage to the building. The medics tried calming the woman on the ground.
And then, there was a man. He was a tall black man, mid 20's, holding a little baby not more than a few months old and looking completely shaken. A police officer asked him if he was alright. Quietly he said, "Yes Sir, I just….well…that's my baby's room. He never sleeps with me, but tonight he just wouldn't stop crying." The officer just nodded his head in understanding.
There I was…up on my balcony…hovering over all the commotion…so disconnected, yet, able to look into all of these lives. I suddenly felt like a peeper. I watched as the man held onto his baby with a death grip and tears in his eyes. I watched as medics spoke quietly to the woman who they had calmed. I watched as fire fighters did their best to remove the car from the baby's room. And I thought…these are heroes. These are men who just 20 minutes ago were sleeping soundly. These are men who are tired and weary. And here they are…changing a life. I watched as they all moved around each other like well-oiled machines; careful not to step on anyone's toes. Moving like one fluid swell of water…washing the whole accident away like it never happened.
I found myself caught up in each of them. Watching them like a lover. Suddenly saddened over the fact that they will later crawl into bed with their wife and she will never know how he looked tonight. In charge, bigger than life, strong, sure and solid. Saving lives and calming souls. She will look at him like an ordinary man…her husband. But I will know better. I will have seen what makes him a hero.
The sun was rising and the car had been hauled away. The ambulance had left with one of the teens while the other was taken home by her parents. I took in a long draw of my cigarette and watched as workers came to patch up the building. The only ones left were the police and fire men. They let their guards down thinking no one was watching. They laughed and talked freely. I couldn't hear what they were saying, but all I could think was that these men saved the night. They worked hard and stayed calm. I felt a new feeling for men in uniform on that night. I saw them not as men…but simply…as heroes. And tomorrow…when I go to sleep…lying in my bed…I would know that although it will be a different circumstance, they will be out there, doing it all again. And it made me somehow feel safe….