Wednesday, June 24, 2009

The past is calling.

Tomorrow morning at 9 am, we're leaving for NYC on a trip to see family, but for me, it is a long awaited event that I'm looking forward to.

Ten years ago this month, we made our move up here to Rochester, leaving friends, family, and a way of life behind. It was also the end of my career in emergency medical services. It was one of the hardest, if not the hardest decision I ever had to make, leaving a life and a career that I loved so very much. The problem was that the job was simply no longer any fun, and it was obvious to me that I needed to get away from it. I spent 22 years in that field, with a lot of amazing memories, many good ones, many bad ones, and a few that were flat out horrific. All-in-all, I would never have traded it for anything in the world. The greatest title I will ever have will have been that of New York City Paramedic. The subtitle of this blog, "I've seen things you people wouldn't believe," is not only a line from Blade Runner, but it perfectly sums up the job. There is also another quote from the movie "Bringing Out The Dead," that also summarizes that job. the original novel was written by NYC paramedic Joe Connelly, who I remember, though I suspect he may not remember me.

I have never seen the movie, or read the book, and I'm I'm not sure I ever will. I lived too close to it, and don't need certain memories revisited. I did however, find this quote from the movie that made me shiver, as it was so frighteningly accurate:

"I realized that my training was useful in less than ten percent of the calls, and saving lives was rarer than that. After a while, I grew to understand that my role was less about saving lives than about bearing witness. I was a grief mop. It was enough that I simply turned up."

Now, that said, what made the job so worthwhile were the people I worked with, and none more so than at the place I spent 11 years at, St. Mary's Hospital in Brooklyn. The people that I worked with there became my extended family, were there for me at all times, especially when I was sick and waiting for my transplant. While we have all gone our separate ways, especially since they closed the hospital 3 years ago, many of us still keep in contact through Facebook. We called ourselves "Mary's Mercenaries," as we were paid to work in what was ostensibly a combat zone. Such was Brooklyn, and indeed NYC as a whole back in the mid-80's t0 mid-90's. I wore a level III-A Kevlar vest under my uniform shirt, and was shot at on occasion. We were proud of being the busiest ambulance garage in all the 9-1-1 system in NYC at that time, so much so that we had these off-duty shirts made:

(Front - I don't know why Blogger is rotating this pic this way.)
Now for the best part: In addition to seeing family, I am going to a St. Mary's Mercenary reunion out on Long Island at Robert Moses State Park and beach. There are many people I have not seen in almost 10 years, some a little longer, so this is going to be a lot of fun. I also have not seen the ocean in a long, long time as well. It will be great to be together again with people that mean the world to me, and a little sad remembering some of them that are no longer with us. We lost a few people over the years from my dept., either to accidents or disease.

Time for a lot of laughs, a lot of memories, and reconnecting with old friends.


Peter said...

Enjoy the trip Mr NightTime: you've had an amazing career (the Kevlar vest part was read 3x before it dawned on me how intense your job actually was).

When people were that close, a reunion must evoke an avalanche of feelings and memories.

Wonderful World of Weiners said...

Sounds like an amazing reunion. Have fun and truly enjoy the moment.


VioletSky said...

Have a great time.

Kathleen said...

Mr. Nighttime, I salute you.

The quote about "bearing witness" and being a "grief mop" is so moving.

I have a dear friend who was an EMT, and he too struggled with the decision to retire. He adored his job, but was offered a great package that was hard to refuse (oh, those damn budget cuts!) He's the calmest, sweetest guy you could know. He's now earning his master's degree in English. Cool, eh?

I spent a fair number of years as a reporter and have a small sense of what your tagline from Blade Runner, "I've seen things you people wouldn't believe." Hard as that was, I'm grateful for the experience. Makes the life I live that much sweeter.

Please give my regards to all Mary's Mercenaries. How would we ever manage without you!

Bina said...

I think it's amazing that people doing that type of work last as long as they do in it. I would turn in to a basket case, I think. My heart feels for so many people and God knows I would probably become too attached to people. What you guys do, how you do, and how LONG you do is something of a miracle in itself.

I hope you have a wonderful time with your old friends, enjoy the memories and perhaps make new ones!

"Play that funky music white boy!"

adsisson1 said...

Mr. N. Enjoy your reunion. May you cherish the memories, rekindle old friendships and rejoice that you made it through hell.

jay said...

It'll be great, and you'll have a wonderful time. Something you've earned, my friend!

I don't know how anyone does the job, anywhere, but in that particular location and in that particular period - you are a hero. ;)

Love the tee shirt!