Being part of Families in the Loop has lots of perks. At the top of the list is the incredible group of Chicago professionals and business owners I’ve come to know over the past year. Each day they’re hard at work, achieving excellence in their industries and inspiring dreamy entrepreneurs like me to keep going. So this month I’m dedicating the Families in the Loop blog to these Chicago superstars. And since it’s the month of love, I’ve added a twist. I have asked these experts to share how love has factored into their career choice. Was it love at first sight? How about a breakup? Find out here, all throughout the month of February. Parents, it’s time to recharge our career batteries with FITL’s “Live It - Love It” career series.
The Siren's Call
~By Brooks Watson, Chicago Firefighter
I was so young when I first heard my siren’s call. As she rounded the street corner, she stopped me in my tracks. Like always, she made quite an entrance. I couldn't possibly know all the places she would someday take me, but I was in love.
Fire trucks can have that kind of effect on a boy.
As time passed, I learned that the shiny red truck captured many young hearts. We'd hear her calling and then chase her down the street as she passed.
Later, in my teens, I set my sights on a career that was less dramatic, more stable, and less likely to harm me physically. Sirens would still taunt me from time to time, but I didn't think seriously about becoming a firefighter anymore. Childhood fantasies, after all, are just that.
Then a chance conversation changed everything. An old friend said my childhood love was looking for new recruits and that I fit the bill. That was all it took for me to sign onto my dream. It was only days past my 18th birthday, and my first call took place the night of January 16th, 1991, the night the U.S. bombed Libya. The irony escaped me at the time, but now I see it clearly. My siren was taking me into battle, and I was ready.
Like many a surrendered lover, I was never too far away from my work and relished the adrenaline rush it brought me. I also became part of a brotherhood. We were young and knew nothing about the monotony of ordinary life when we started, only the extremes. We were going 100 miles an hour, 24 hours a day, and doing amazing things, holding lives in our hands. While my high school friends were off pledging fraternities, I was fully enrolled in the school of life with my band of brothers, and my siren was our teacher. This would be the case for the next five years.
In 1996, I moved to Chicago to become part of the city’s storied firefighting force. I was living the fantasy I had dreamed of as a boy, and I knew I was in it for the long haul. Other dimensions of firefighting opened themselves to me, and in time I became more than my siren’s responder; I became her messenger and defender.
As an ambassador for fire prevention and safety, I meet with world leaders and disenfranchised citizens who exist in utter poverty. In a world marked by borders and restricted access zones, every door is open to me, every light is green, and every experience is revelatory and humbling.
After 21 years as a firefighter, my time with my first love will soon be ending. My love is as unrelenting as she is rewarding. When I look at those young new faces in the firehouse, I know the passion that grips them is the same.
About Brooks Watson
Brooks Watson is an entrepreneur, writer, photographer, traveler, and firefighter. He works locally, nationally, and globally as an advocate and development consultant for fire and rescue services. Over two decades, Brooks has worked in Kosovo, Haiti, Japan, Ecuador, and Japan. He is co-owner of Safety Squad LLC, Kids Fire Dept., and Read and Rescue LLC. Locally, he continues the work he was called to years ago. You can wave to Brooks as truck 44 drives by.
Filed under: Live It - Love It... Career Stories