The Dying Firefighter

I saw the plane hit the building
The flames and the billowing smoke
I saw the glass, paper, metal and stone
Everything shattered and broke
I was there with my people
Engine Company 24
We rushed into the building
Got as far as the 35th floor

The black smoke and the heat was like nothing
I’d seen in all of my years
With each step in that blazing inferno
You could feel destiny near
In the midst of the falling girders
The sheet rock and God knows what else
I tried to find the survivors
Those who made it to the stairwells

I carried the wounded to safety
If that’s what you might call the street
With bodies and boulders and metal
All crashing down by your feet
As #2 was collapsing
When only ten floors still stood
Everything was falling around me
Like it was made out of cardboard and wood

It was just then I heard someone
Trapped underneath the debris
I started pulling at something
And that’s when the fire got me
I was pinned ‘neath the rubble
And the flames were licking my coat
And the pain, the unbearable agony
And then that was all that she wrote

But I just wish I could tell you
Before I am taken away
That I’ve seen a lot of this world
And there’s something that I gotta say
I don’t believe in politics
I believe in the human race
I believe in the goodness of people
In New York or some far-away place

I believe in my daughter
And I believe in my wife
And may nobody’s father be taken
To avenge the loss of my life
People may call me a brave man
And this may very well be
But the firefighters of Kabul
Are just as brave men as me

Sheet music:
Dying Firefighter

“The Dying Firefighter” originally appeared in Living In These Times (CD, 2001), and later in Waiting for the Fall — a Retrospective (CD, 2009).

There were a number of leading capitalists killed in the World Trade Center buildings, as one might expect in an attack on one of the US’s most prominent symbols of economic dominance.  And then there were the children in the daycare, all the waiters, janitors, and of course firefighters.  Some of whom, I happen to know for sure, were also completely opposed to any US invasion of Afghanistan.

I heard from some New York firefighters who liked the song and wanted me to sing at an event sometime soon after 9/11, but then I think they must have familiarized themselves with other material of mine, and I stopped hearing from them.  This kind of thing happens fairly often.

This was the second song I wrote after 9/11.  I wrote “International Terrorists” on 9/11, and this one a couple weeks later.  This one tells a story about a person, I like it better, though the other one was a pretty cool idea, too.  Very soon after I wrote it I performed it at a community radio station in Maine, WERU, and also on Democracy Now!, and I can’t remember where else, there was a lot going on.

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