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I opened my dorm room, 118, carrying my new T-shirt, hat, and water bottle. I closed the light weight wood door shut and started to strip off my ordinary clothes. I had only three minutes to change. Slipping into my denim Old Navy jeans, putting on an athletic grey T-shirt that read Connecticut Fire Academy across the back, I tucked in my shirt. I put on my black sneakers and quickly laced them up. I slapped on an academy cap onto my dark brown hair, fixing my pony tail into the cap. I clipped my tags and keys on the left sleeve of my T-shirt. I finally examined my uniform in the mirror, I had everything. I grabbed the water bottle and gave a quick glance back at my reflection. I breathed deeply and headed downstairs to the auditorium.
It was nine thirty when all the teenagers arrived in the auditorium. I only knew two of the boys: Patrick Schaefer and Nick Campbell, from my fire department. I sat in between them. Then an instructor entered the room.
“Good Morning!” the instructor announces, silencing the immature chatter, “I am Mr. Trisler.”
Everyone was tuned in on the speaker. He passes out a small piece of rope.
“For the next four days, you’ll have this rope tied in a square knot around your waist,” he explains, “Many who’ve gone through the academy get really attach to this.”
Mr. Trisler orders everyone to stand up. I felt the rope between my fingers and slid it behind my waist. I follow Mr. Trisler’s instructions; make a loop, around the loop, and through. I tighten the knot.
After the knot tying lesson, he tell us what we will have at all times, hat, rope, and water bottle. Mr. Trisler explains that hydrating is extremely important when working in the hot sun in full out bunker gear. These days were described really long days.
Finally, Mr. Trisler introduces another instructor. He orders everyone outside. Everyone rises from their seats and single files out of the room.
The sun was hot over the academy as we line up in front of the school building outside. Our posture was straight. The instructor faces us.
“Every morning we will have a fitness session, “the instructor explains, “Fitness is important to fire fighting.”
He clarifies that learning all our names would take to long time, he calls the boys Ryan and the girls Kate. I would no longer be Lindsay, I would be Kate.
The instructor guided us to a four story building, a smoke house. There were long sharp headed and flatted headed axes that paired with a halogen tool, two inched and four inched yellow and white rolls of hoses, and long rope; other fire fighting tools laying on the heated gray pavement. We were ordered to carry the equipment up and down the tower.
I grabbed hose and ran up the stairs. After everyone grabbed a tool, a moving line took form up the building.
“Switch!” the instructor yelled. I handed my hose to a boy behind me. I received an axe from a boy in front of me. Everyone kept walking up or down the tower.
Time went by slowly as we tired from walking up step after step. Sweat dripped from my face, I tasted the salt in my mouth. The boys sweat and the girls were about to give up. Passing tool after tool, the assembly line was endless.
“Stop!” the instructor yelled. We gathered on the third floor of the tower. We walked up and down the tower with equipment for fifteen minutes. The lesson was a hard cardio workout. “We never said this week would be easy,” the instructor made clear. I panted, breathing for oxygen, but the sun’s shining rays scorched in middle summer. As sweat dripped like rivers down my face, I knew my stay at the Connecticut Fire Academy was going to be a long, long week.
Colden, New York
Green Bay, Wisconsin
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