We got the call at 11:03pm. It was a simple-breeze kind of night. Cincinnati in the summer time has its own rhythms. Particularly back then. Its not easy being a fireman in these parts of town. Was hoping for an easy scene. But no fire is easy. You always have to be ready and on the go. You have to swallow your fear and head in with your whole being.
We arrived at the house and helped the mother and her child out. The fire has started in the little girl’s bedroom. It was a sweet simple room. You knew the family did not have much but they had each other. The mother clung to her daughter as if it was the last drop of water on earth. That thirst for love, warmth and comfort can’t be beat. It can be as all consuming as that fire that raged on within their house. Looking at that fire, I knew they would never go back. I never knew where they ended up. However, I will never forget that little wide-eyed girl. Her name is mimi.
As they ran out the house, the mother was choking back a million coughs desperately holding onto that little girl. She looked she was about to fall from her fear of letting go of Mimi. I steadied her on over to across the street. She handed the little girl over to me.
Mimi reached up to the brim of my hat and knocked some soot off. She stared intently at me and turned to the fire. She was hypnotized by it. She was scared, enthralled and mesmerized; she did not cry. Her arm was on my shoulder but it was not heavy. It was as if she internalized the weight of the world while she held her gaze steady. She was going to be strong. She was going to hold her head up high and stare the world down.
She turned back to look at me. Her wide eyes took in my face one more time. Solemn eyes held mine. I knew then the fear would propel her forward. I had a deep sense of that from her wide eyes. Her mom, having caught her breath, pulled her away into her arms. Both comforting the other. Her mom’s eyes were just as wide as mimi’s or is that vice versa. The cops came to take her statement and mimi waved. I hoped she wouldn’t remember the fire but I surely would remember her.
…and, yes she did remember. It was her first memory. Her longest standing one that indeed propelled her forward. Her eyes ever more wide.