And the Lord said, "Have you read the specs on this order? A firefighter has to wake up to a fire alarm, go into burning buildings to rescue people and enter areas the normal person wouldn't go.
"He has to be willing to leave his family and put his life on the line, work to exhaustion and beyond and be ready for the next call.
"He has to have a strong commitment to a personal calling that places their lives in jeopardy every day.
He has to be in top physical and mental condition at all times, function on black coffee and half-eaten meals, and have a heart big enough to love members of the 'brotherhood' world-wide, and a unity of purpose."
The angel shook it's head slowly and said, "A heart that big... no way."
"It's not the heart that is causing me problems," said the Lord, "it's the extra hands and eyes a firefighter has to have."
"That has to be on the standard model?" asked the angel.
The Lord nodded. "One pair of eyes that sees the whole situation, another pair that sees what is ahead to be dealt with, a third pair to watch out for his brothers, and another pair here in front that can look reassuringly at an injured victim and say, "You'll be alright," even when he knows it isn't so."
"Lord," said the angel, touching his sleeve, "rest and work on this tomorrow."
"I can't," said the Lord, "I already have a model that can carry a 190 pound victim out of a burning building, has dedicated his life to helping people, and is willing to come to the aid of those threatened by the deadly force of fire."
The angel circled the model of the firefighter very slowly, "Can it think?" the angel asked.
"You bet," said the Lord. "It can tell you the elements of a hundred fires, the victims and rescues, and the importance of fire safety.... and still keep its sense of humor.
"This firefighter also has phenomenal personal control. He can deal with fire scenes painted in hell, coax a trapped person or animal out of a burning building, and still go home and love his family.
"Being a firefighter is one of bravery, loyalty and devotion to public service. He is willing to put his life on the line every day to protect our homes and our loved ones from the devastating effects of fire, and sometimes, the honorable job of saving lives requires many firefighters to pay the ultimate price for their valor in the line of duty."
Finally, the angel ran a finger across the cheek of the firefighter. "There's a leak," the angel pronounced. "I told you that you were trying to put too much in this model."
"That's not a leak," the Lord said, "it's a tear."
"What's the tear for?" asked the angel.
"It's for bottled-up emotions, for fallen comrades, for the victims, and for commitment to that piece of cloth called the American flag."
"You're a genius," said the angel.
The Lord looked somber. "I didn't put it there," he said.
Help me embrace a little child
before it is to late,
or save an old person
from the horror of that fate.
Enable me to be alert
and hear the weakest shout.
to quickly and efficiently
put the fire out.
I want to fill my calling
and to give the best in me,
to guard my every neighbor
and protect his property.
And if according to my fate....
I am to lose my life,
please bless with your protecting hand
my children and my wife.
They became firefighters
not for the pay or uniform
and knew what they might
have to face in the duties they'd perform.
And on September 11th,
two-thousand and one,
though their worst fears came true,
they did what had to be done.
In the chaos and terror
and rush of the mob,
headfirst they proceeded
to accomplish their job.
Through air thick with flame,
they felt the vibration,
but made a hero's choice
to enter ...without hesitation.
Aware this decision
could mean from earth they'd depart,
each made a hero's choice
by following his heart.
Although hundreds went in,
their guidance was heard as one voice
and thousands live today
because they made ...a hero's choice.
Every firefighter's limb
that bears a burn or a scar
represents what they do
and defines who they are
and the steadfast union they share
where it's understood...
that more than just a job;
it's a sacred brotherhood.
On that fateful day in September,
they proved this to be true…
When a firefighter's skin is cut,
he bleeds red, white and blue.
Along with grieving for their loss,
let us also rejoice
that each firefighter left this earth
because he made ...a hero's choice.