Since I read part I of Firefighter Jay Bettencourt's story I have been thinking about all that he described, did, and has to live with. I don't even know where to begin to try and tell him thank you. His story should be a tale to all of us of what could happen on any call to any of us, and then a heroic story of a man doing extraordinary things in the face of tragedy. Captain Bowen may have died, but Jay did everything he could and then some to give him a chance.
Captain Bowen was one of my students at Fayetteville State and though I never "met" him he was always and exemplary student. I have never met Jay but I saw him at Breathing Equipment School last October and saw that he was an incredible guy. From talking with folks who know Jay, he doesn't want to be a hero, he doesn't want to be something special, but I have news for you Jay....you are a hero, you are special....too late to deny those titles. Many folks that I have spoken with who have read these stories, have told me that it caused them to reflect on the job what do, and what it could involve one day. It made me think about how powerful the human will is, and the strength of the brotherhood of the fire service. This man knew he could get out at one point and decided to go back to get his Captain. He did all of this, and doesn't see himself as a hero, just a normal fireman.
What Jay did that day was what we are trained to do, what we all say we will do, but none of us may ever experience. And none of us will know if we could ever do what he did unless we are looking down the barrel of the gun of death. I am so glad that it seems Jay's way of healing is getting this story out. We need more folks who speak candidly as he has done. We need people who are honest about their experience as he has been. His quote "Fitness ain't no F'ing joke" should resonate with all of us. He is a fit guy and he struggled with the physical exertion of that day, how well could you do today in your current condition?
There are many lessons to be learned from Jay's experience, but each person will take something different from it. Please read the story if you haven't already, and post some comments on how it struck you. That's the beauty (if there is one) of his story, that everyone who reads it can relate in some way, and learn something. Jay is a special person (in a good way) and a special firefighter. I hope one day to hear him speak in person about this story.
Please train yourself to be the best you can be so that if put in the same position as Jay, you can act in a heroic way. Please pray for the Asheville Fire Department as they continue to heal, and to help Jeff's family. Please visit Captain Jeff Bowen website to donate to his family by buying a T-shirt or donating money.
Until the next time, stay safe and stay trained.