“You’re gonna be pulling hoses today. We’re pairing you up with Frank. Follow his lead.” Eli leaned in close and raised his voice to be heard over the siren’s wail. Neil nodded his head in understanding.

“It sounds like we have a house fire.” Clark turned from the front seat as he spoke. “Possibly two people inside. You want to suit up, Eli? Or do you want someone else to take it?”

“I got it. Me and Jerry can go in.” The truck fell silent after Eli spoke, except for the siren, horns and occasional radio chatter.

Neil finally broke the silence as he leaned closer to Eli. “You ever get tired of this?”

“Tired of what? Of saving lives? Of taming chaos?”

“Tired of this job.”

“No. You might get tired of the hours, or the long waits, but you don’t get tired of responding when you’re needed. You could say this job rescued me.”

“How’s that?”

“Well, my dad died when I was fifteen. We moved back to Iowa and my anger got me into a lot of trouble over the next few years. Chief Mathews at that little volunteer fire department took notice of me. He gave me stuff to do. I guess he gave me a way to blow off steam by putting out fires.”

“So how’d you end up here?”

“After fire college I came back. I knew…” Eli cut his words short as the truck wheeled to a stop. He swung a tank on his back as everyone else ran to their tasks.

*****

“Is Eli out of the house yet?” Neil asked as he and Frank held their hose.

Neil shook his head. “There’s a hot spot over there. Hit it for a while.”

About that time Eli and Jerry emerged from the house carrying a small child. They brought the child to the waiting ambulance and spoke briefly with the paramedics. Their faces were sweaty and smeared with soot, but a smile had found its way across as well.

“Judging by their faces, I’m guessing the kid will be alright.”

“I think you’re right. It’s nice to see Eli smiling.” Frank stepped in front of Neil and moved them closer with the hose. “I’m surprised he even worked today. It’s got to be tough on him.”

“Why? What happened?”

“Well, you know, with it being nine eleven and all.”

“What does that have to do with Eli?”

“You don’t know? His dad died in the towers. One of the first teams to respond that day. He was never recovered.”