CNN reported today that nine firefighters died while fighting a warehouse fire in Charleston, South Carolina, when the roof of the burning warehouse collapsed on them. A Charleston firefighter said, "I lost nine of my best friends."
I've met lots of firefighters, including a particularly heroic group from New York City, who were at the World Trade Center on 9-11 (where they lost 343 firefighters). When you talk to these guys, they speak with a complete lack of pretension about what they do for a living. They just do it. They don't analyze it; they don't question it; they aren't maudlin about it; they just have a job to do, and when they are asked to help, they are right there putting their lives on the line to get what needs to be done, done. Going in, they don't think about the danger facing them; rather, they think about rescuing people and animals trapped inside the building, getting the fire out, and making sure they watch their buddies' backs. The last thing on their minds is their own skin.
The firefighters I met didn't dwell on the events of that morning, at least in mixed company. When they did speak of their friends, they recalled something funny they had said or done; they talked about what a great guy he was; they shared what a wonderful father or husband he was. Then they'd raise a glass and have a drink in their memory. Then they'd raise another glass, and another.
One of the Charleston firefighters stated on Tuesday, "I lost nine of my best friends."
Bravery like that is something I can learn from.