"If I'd known what a big sonofabitch you was, I wouldna made fun of ya for bein' slow!"
This line was delivered at about 12:45 a.m on a Monday morning as we stood under the sodium lights next to a helipad at the hospital in the county seat where a helicopter had taken off with a little girl a few minutes before. I was the only one without a cigarette. Tension was being released; humor was strained, but laughter was loud. The guys from the Rescue Squad don't generally get a chance to critique my driving, but on that night, they were already on scene performing CPR on a little girl who wasn't quite a year old, so they just continued and carried her out to the bolance and off we went. They had her pink and breathing before we met the ALS unit, and she was crying by the time we reached the waiting helicopter. It was a big win. My crew's time on call had ended at midnight (the call went out at 11:56 by my watch) so we weren't in a big hurry to get home, and we all tacitly agreed that there was time for a smoke and some good-natured observations about wives and police officers and other things. In short, we seized our moment and savored our triumph.
Two days later, that little girl died. I don't know any details, but her condition was chronic and the terrifying episode in the middle of the night two days before had not been unexpected. All I really know is that she's gone for ever and ever. Her name reminds me of stars. None of this made me cry until I wrote this post.