I really don't share as many of the images I take on a regular basis, which is funny to me, because I love photography. A few days ago, one of my best friends, also a Philadelphia native, and I took a little trip "home" to Philly to catch a Phillies game and a Flyers game. This was a birthday present from my wife and I really looked forward to it.
As it was, I brought my camera, but for probably the first time, I left it behind while we soaked up as much of the city as possible for our little two day getaway. Any pictures I took, I did with the camera on my smart phone, which isn't too bad, but isn't exactly what I am used to using when I do see something I want to shoot. So I didn't take all the shots I really saw, and for me, that is completely out of character.
Even though Jeff and I were there together, we didn't go into any stations along the way (Jeff is my counterpart Battalion Chief for "B" Shift). I won't say we didn't see any along the way, but we were in such a rush, we really didn't stop in like both of us would have probably done on our own if we were on a less tightly scheduled timeframe.
Since we were really there for the two sports events, we limited our travels to Central and South Philly, close by to the sports complex. We saw some PFD units, doing this or doing that, but really paid them no mind. By the time we left and made it home, I was surprised at the lack of pictures I had, and especially since there weren't any of fire department stuff, which is probably pretty funny for any of us. After living in South Carolina for 30 years, I don't get "homesick" like I used to, but this time was a little different. This time I really found that I missed Philly, the places I would go to, the smells, the attitudes, all of it. It just really hit me this time, but as is normal, you get home and get back to work and put the thoughts aside.
What we see today, might be gone tomorrow. What we can touch and hold right now may be a memory moments later. We do things, like take pictures, to preserve those images, and to remind ourselves of what we experienced. We do these things to preserve, to record, and to share those thoughts. In one minute, we can be gone and not anyone may even be able to understand why.
The other morning, while checking my e-mail, I saw that LODD notice. I learned of the tragic loss of the two brothers from Ladder 10, and the hospitalization of two others. I listened to the audio and closed my eyes, imagining what events must have transpired. And while I am not a Philly firefighter, I felt a little differently this time, like I knew these guys, and understood the situation. And while I was saddened, on this occasion, it just made me feel deep down inside how much I miss being there.
These brothers went into an expsoure building to check on conditions. We have all done it a hundred times. Then the next thing they knew, it was changed. The building came down around them and two of the crew were lost forever. Two others were hurt, one so severely that CPR had to be administered. In a moment, families were ripped apart, friendships severed. What any of us would give to have those moments back again, those moments just before the world changed. If that crew was anything like my crews have always been, they were probably making stupid jokes about what was going on, wry observations on their current condition, all the while watching and listening for anything that could tell them more about their surroundings, about what work needed to be done, or what information needed to be shared.
We know not the hour of the day or the place where things will change forever. They do, routinely, daily, and these moments sometimes pass without notice. Take a moment and tell those around you how you feel about them. Take a moment and enjoy your surroundings. Live each moment like it will be your last and put a determined mindfulness on your surroundings. Appreciate now what you have, because tomorrow, it may all be gone.