Black boxes

When you hear the term black box, just what comes to mind? Do you think about a magical container of sorts holding some secret power or mystery? Perhaps you think of something that holds the truth, the unknown, or some type of certainty?

In aviation, the flight data recorders are often called “black boxes,” perhaps because they are believed to hold all the secrets with some level of confidence.

Wikipedia notes that a black box typically refers to something that can not be opened to look inside and see how it works.  All you can do with it is take it on faith and guess how it works, based on what happens when something is done to it (an input), and then seeing what occurs as a result of that (an output).

But for me and so many of my fire service brothers and sisters in communities across this great country and around the world, there is a little black box that holds both mystery and certainty.

For me and so many of my fire service brothers and sisters in communities across this great country and around the world, there is a little black box that holds both mystery and certainty.

Whether it’s clipped to my belt, laying on my desk, or in the charger on my nightstand, my little black box sits idly by — waiting for the moment when a call for help brings it to life and sends us into action. Whether it’s a fire, accident, or some type of medical emergency, there is always a level of mystery and uncertainty about what we will find when we arrive. However, the certainty is that we will go. We will respond. We will do everything in our power to make a difference. Sometimes that means we quickly take care of things, and then everyone heads for home. And sometimes… that’s sadly and painfully not the case.

Last night, I was glued to my computer until the wee hours of the night listening to the live scanner feed from McLennan County, Texas — listening with an overwhelming empathy to exactly the same noises that were coming from the black boxes of so many who were doing their duty in the small city of West. Based on what I know about volunteer firefighters operating in a small, tight-knit community, a need for help was inputted into their black boxes, and that resulted in those individuals jumping to duty to give everything they could to protect and serve the citizens of the community they loved.

In this tragic case, it is unlikely any of them knew when they arrived that an explosion would occur. We don’t know for sure if they started to think that was actually going to happen. This is representative of the unknown that every single one of us experiences every time we leave for and arrive on a scene. The certainty, however, is that each of these dedicated individuals likely knew the dangers they faced long before last night, and they knew they were the ones being depended upon to protect others.

Godspeed brothers. And our many thoughts and prayers to all of the victims, families, and friends of those affected by this horrific tragedy.

 

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