Firefighters, police say: I will help

October 02, 2001 12:00 am

Now theres another thing about Baker some people just arent going to believe.

A parade, six blocks long or longer.

Sixteen billion tons of truck (Well rely on awestruck two-year-old boys for that assessment, not a certified scale).

Lots of red.

Lots of flashing.

Wow.

And behind it: a meaning for each marcher, a memory for each watcher

A moment shared by these American people, on this American Main Street, as a procession of people who protect us every day, in ways big and small, waved.

And marched, at one point, through a gauntlet of clapping purple Bulldogs, a gang of Friday night floodlight warriors standing without their helmets, standing together and looking up.

Up at the brilliant rigs, the dually brush trucks and the pumpers, the restored antiques and their older cousins still in service.

Up at the men and women who risk their lives, every day, in big ways and small.

From volunteer rural firefighters to the EMTs at Oxbow to the guy at the construction site who OSHA requires to know CPR, there are people in this world who accept responsibility for the safety of others.

We have mighty myths about the Lone Rangers and Superman, out battling for truth and justice and the American way.

An organization like a department doesnt diminish that bravery, only make it less obvious for celebration.

Until the unthinkable happens.

When a firefighter or police officer dies in the line of duty, their colleagues turn out and share in a moment of mourning, of shared purpose and resolve.

It is a dangerous line of work, and they accept that danger.

But they seek the duty.

To country.

To community.

To themselves and each other.

It must be daunting stuff to know that something beyond your control, something at times beyond imagination might await you a moment from now, or maybe later.

Maybe.

Dont you admire the folks who steel themselves for that unknown and restore their resolve when they are shaken when the unimaginable happens?

If something bad happens to you, I will help.

Thats what we heard between sirens Wednesday night, a promise perfumed in diesel and shaded in reds and whites and blues and greens and yellows and blacks.

State, city, county, federal they all marched together, for their own reasons and one burning reason seared in our American memory.

They marched down this Main Street in Baker City and adjourned to a feast beneath the American flag and a retiringly beautiful Eastern Oregon fall sky.

A fitting tribute to their fallen colleagues to those who died Sept. 11, to those who will give their lies, to those who have and who deserve our thanks.

Take it as a challenge that, together, we should say to them and to our neighbors:

If something bad happens to you, I will help.