I was awakened at 5:45 this morning by the wailing of sirens. Often, I hear a passing siren or two during the night but quickly disregard it and fall fast asleep. However, I heard one rumbling truck engine, sirens blaring, pass by under my window at 4th and Pennsylvania, Southeast. Then I heard another truck, with its sirens. I heard backing up, voices on the street, pressure brakes chirping and whistling.
Clearly, something was emergent down below.
The siren-after-siren phenomenon brought me eerily back to spring 2007, when Eastern Market burned. It was the same "this is a real emergency" kind of auditory experience.
My heart stirring with nervousness, I pulled my curtains aside and peeked out of my third floor window. The street corner below was red with flickering lights. I dressed quickly, grabbed my keys, and stepped into the heat and humidity outside.
I saw three or four fire trucks, surrounding the corner of 4th and Penn, my corner. I worried that the church was on fire, and I faintly smelled smoke. I didn't see fire anywhere nearby and felt relieved.
I have a soft place in my heart for firefighters. Especially since just the week before, I got an email notifying me of the new Houston, Texas, firefighters' fundraiser calendar. Love 'em! The truck nearest me had five - and two of them were standing in the street (that was blocked off), only steps from my front door. I approached them.
"Two alarm fire," one of them said, his face furrowed and leathery for his age. "What does that mean," I asked. "Oh, it just means that if one group of fighters is at the scene, and they are having trouble containing the fire, they call in a second Unit. Then, if those two Units still have trouble, they call in a third Unit, etc." "Oh, okay," I nodded.
We shot the breeze for a few more minutes as twilight brightened into an early morning glow of gentle blue skies and smothering humidity. I thought the fire fighters looked handsome in their heavy suits, oxygen tanks on their backs like scuba divers. We talked about Eastern Market, about local bars, working on the Hill, family roots.
And suddenly, the truck began pulling away. I waved as they faded toward the end of the block.
I have such tremendous respect for those guys.