As he so often does, Michael Morse brings out the human detail in the heart of a terrible incident. In this case, the incident is the death of Worcester fire lieutenant Jason Menard in the early hours of Wednesday. Writes Michael:
I’m certain that until the very last seconds he thought he would pull it off and be on his way to Disney when the shift was over. …
I hope Lieutenant Menard’s family understands this, and that he had every intention of coming home.
But he couldn’t. He just couldn’t.
The reference is to the Menard family’s planned vacation, which was to start at the end of his shift just a few hours later, and it speaks to the looming uncertainty that surrounds the lives of those who undertake dangerous jobs.
The heart-wrenching, humanizing details abound. A cafe at which Menard and his wife would eat breakfast together once they’d gotten their three children to school put out a memorial mimosa, accompanied by his picture and the Fireman’s Prayer.
The words of that poem are especially poignant in this case, given that they appear to have been written after a fire during which rescuers were not able to save some children. Menard’s crew reportedly went out on its own dangerous limb in response to information that two people, including a baby, were trapped there.
As Michael writes, Menard died in the line of duty “simply doing what his training allowed him to do.” That includes making split-second decisions about the amount of risk justified in unpredictable circumstances. A professional calculates risks based not on the moment alone, but on the likelihood that the same decision made over and over again by different people will turn out well. But sometimes risk turns into tragedy and, as the prayer’s author wrote of his own uncertainties, “according to Your Will I have to lose my life.”
When that happens, with or without the details so richly available around Jason Menard, the rest of us should pause and reflect for a moment in gratitude, because the fallen partake in the unknowable rescues whose incalculable number we cannot know.