I let out a loud whoop, and took a deep breath as my boot hit the rung. A tingle grew slowly in my chest, until I could no longer contain it—I began laughing madly, my turnout coat still whipping around me in the wind.
I didn't even mind that I was a hundred feet in the air, my belt clipped into the uppermost rung of Truck 41's aerial ladder. I leaned back and spread my arms as instructed (it's a confidence test, you see), and closed my eyes.
The air was beautiful up there, and I didn't want to come down.
After lunch today, our instructors pulled Truck 41 out of the bay and set it up near the burn building. We had just learned about ladders, and our practical instruction today was a test of our mettle.
To be perfectly honest, the idea of climbing this ladder was scarier than the actual event. Most of the recruits with fire experience shimmied up there like hamsters, seemingly having no problem with heights; others were a bit more hesitant.
"Uh… you want me to climb what, Sarge?"
A bit intimidating, no?
Additionally, we had to learn to trust our equipment. We had wide Pompier belts around our waists for the climb, but it was nerve-wracking to think that these belts would really only be useful at the top, when they were actually attached to something. To borrow a term from my rock-climbing days, we'd be "free climbing" to the top.
Pompier belt: useless from 0 – 99 feet!
However, once the climb began, it was easy. In fact, most of the recruits complained more about having to climb a ladder (our legs were sore from PT) than about being up in the air!
It was a perfect day for this sort of exercise; the kind of day that makes you never want to stop doing things outside. There's something amazing about tilting your head back and seeing nothing but blue sky; normally there's trees and buildings in your peripheral vision, but when you're high up enough, you only see blue. It's breathtaking—and apparently it's reserved for mountain climbers and firefighters.
I reluctantly began climbing down, my feet finding purchase on the rungs below. I could feel the ladder swaying a bit with the wind, and bouncing just a hair every time I took a step. I paused for a moment, and panned my head around as far as I could in every direction. I looked at the water treatment plant, the MPD buildings next to us, and then at the heart of the city off in the distance. There was no way for anyone to hear it on this particular occasion, and I know I've lost count of the number of times I've said it.
"I fucking love my job."
I didn't hear a response, but I did catch sight of a bird flying overhead. I looked up, and once I realized what it was, it was all the reply I needed. I shook my head, still grinning, and gave a small chuckle as I continued on my way.