I am not a parade kind of person. I find peace and solitude far more appealing, (which does not explain my choice of careers, I know!) yet I wanted to find a place where Triple F’s Fabulous Female Firefighters could come together from across the country and have a chance to meet in person. Somewhere we could hang out and have fun minus HOT drills and lectures. A place free of pressure and competition.
Someone suggested the Delray Beach St. Patrick’s Day Annual Parade. It’s become a grand event with firefighters who arrive from all over the world to march in unity and is chock full of gorgeous fire trucks and burly men in celts playing the bag pipes. What’s not to like about that? Delray Beach is warm and bright and sounded like a charming place for our winter sisters to shake off the cold and usher in the spring. I figured we’d listen to some music, get to know each other without a digital screen in the way, and watch the parade. But, when a Triple F’er asked if we could march in the parade I inwardly groaned. Dear God, I thought. Being on display in front of thousands of people is not my idea of fun. Actually, it’s kind of a low grade nightmare. I am shy and most eloquent when I’m behind a computer screen and can go back and erase things that I might otherwise blurt out. But, I figured this was one of those times where I should take one for the team, and boy am I glad I did.
Everything you want is just outside your comfort zone.
We came from all over. North Carolina, New Hampshire, Washington State, Orlando, and of course, Dade County. There were senior firefighters and newly certified ones. Federal firefighters and county. Paid and volunteer. Rural and city. Everyone’s department operated differently with their own unique challenges. Some of us work 24 hour shifts and others 48 (yuck!). Â Some respond to military bases while others run on urban civilians. Some have to pay for their Class As while others have everything provided by their dept. Yet, despite these differences we were all incredibly alike. We are women in fire and no matter what department we are on, we have similar obstacles to overcome and challenges to face. And now we had the opportunity to share our experiences and pick each others brains, gather survival strategies, learn from and inspire each other. It was awesome.
We arrived in Delray at different times and spent Friday night finding each other and getting acquainted. That didn’t take long. By Saturday morning it felt like we were sisters through and through. Of course it didn’t hurt that one room held six girls like a fabulous slumber party, only instead of stilettos and shiny jewelry strewn about the place, shiny black shoes were lined up beneath ironed shirts and glinting badges.
Saturday, at noon we met up in our various dress blues, and I must say we looked sharp. I was proud. When we lined up for the parade behind MDFR (thanks Chief!) more women firefighters joined us, some of them retired. They didn’t know us but they stepped in anyway because once in uniform we all felt like one big family, united in fire and sisterhood, brought closer by our unique experience.
We marched to cheers from the crowd. There were shouts of “Go girls!” and “FABULOUS!” Mostly it was women cheering us on as if we somehow represented them too and symbolized what was possible for all of us. Once they read our banner and realized they were looking at Fabulous Female Firefighters! their cheers erupted. Children waved. Older women yelled. It was really surprising and heart warming. And, maybe, somewhere out there in the crowd a little girl watched and thought one day she could be a fabulous firefighter too.
Because together we are stronger.
I now feel like I have sisters all over the country. I”m not a naturally social person and would never have done this if not for Triple F and all the incredible women I have met through the group. The time I spent with Nicky, Fran, Michelle, Karen, Robin, Marcela, Mariela, Jacquie, Helen, Karen, Lupe and the anonymous firefighters who stepped in behind us for the march, have made me feel like I am part of something bigger than myself, something stronger. It”s what the Brotherhood is all about. Our Sisterhood is based on trust and kindness and support. We will look out for each other. We will have each other’s backs.
Thank you to all who traveled near and far to join Triple F at the parade. You have shown me that we truly are Fabulous!