"Paid or Volunteer, It’s What We Do, I Wish You Really Knew”

MEDIA CONTACT: Mark E. Brady, Chief Spokesperson, 240-508-7930

Earlier this week I posted a video of Prince George's County Fire Chief Marc S. Bashoor delivering a message to the congregation of the First Baptist Church of Glenarden.  His message centered around the tragic events of an early morning house fire where four family members perished; no smoke alarm was found in the house.

His message was well received not only on that Sunday but also by the thousands that have watched the video.  Many have asked for the words to the poem that was read, "It's What We Do."  I am glad to provide the poem for everyone:

"Paid or Volunteer, It’s What We Do, I Wish You Really Knew”
Adapted from Author Unknown by Marc Bashoor, Fire Chief, Prince George’s County MD Fire/EMS
“I wish for just once you could experience the acrid smell of burning insulation; the foul taste of soot-filled mucus; the eeriness of being unable to see your hand in front of your face—or a host of the other panic-inducing sensations my brethren and I have had to learn to instinctively overcome and control—as we blindly search a smoke-filled bedroom for a trapped child at three o’clock in the morning, our palms and knees burning as we crawl.  The floor sagging under our weight from the kitchen ablaze beneath us….with only eerie silence filling the audible void that we so desperately wish could have been filled with the wail of a smoke alarm. It’s what we do.
I wish you would just once have to cope with a wife's horror at six o’clock in the morning, as I check her husband of forty years for a pulse and find none.  My crew starts CPR right away, wishing we could bring him back but knowing intuitively it is probably too late, yet doing all we can because his wife and family deserve to know everything possible is being done to try to save his life. It’s what we do.
I wish you could stand beside me just one time in the emergency room, as a doctor pronounces the infant my crew has been pouring 110 percent of their skills into saving for the past 30 minutes. A child who we know will never again say the words, 
"I love you Mommy."
I wish you could read my thoughts as we extricate an intoxicated teenager from the remains of her automobile, wondering, "Where are her parents?” Wondering what will her family’s reaction be when they answer that doorbell an hour from now to find a police officer at the door.  It’s what we do.
I wish you could comprehend what it feels like to have a child tugging at your arm and asking, "Is my mommy gonna be okay?" Not being able to look in his eyes, not knowing how to answer his plea. I wish just one time in your life you have to comfort a life-long friend who just saw his buddy having CPR performed on him as the Medic Unit pulls away.  It’s what we do.
I wish for just one moment you could feel the frustration I experience sitting in the officer’s seat, my driver slamming hard on the brake pedal or my arm tugging the air horn, as someone fails to yield the right-of-way….knowing full well that should they ever need us, the first words out of their mouth will likely be, "What took you so long?"
I wish for just one time you could know how it feels to walk in the house and greet my family, not looking forward to explaining that I almost didn’t make it back from the last call. It’s what we do.
I wish you could experience just a tiny portion of the physical, emotional and mental pain this body has had to overcome…or the skipped meals…or the lost sleep…or missed social engagements….or just a fraction of the horrible and needless tragedy these eyes have seen. It’s what we do.
Hearing all of this, I know you are probably wondering if I am crazy for choosing this as my life’s calling.  However, for just one moment I wish you could also experience the camaraderie of my station; or the brotherhood of my crew; or the emotional reward from saving a life; or the personal satisfaction we gain from preserving someone's property; and, the unbelievable rush of being able to bring calm to chaos.
Unfortunately, unless you have lived the life we live every day, you will never completely understand or appreciate who we are, or that indeed “Paid or Volunteer, by the grace of God, It’s What We Do, I Wish You Really Knew.”