Laura's Corner

I work very hard and am attending college to obtain my degree in the Human Service field. Writing makes me feel alive and gives me the opportunity to touch those whom I would not be able to otherwise. Last but not least, I have been blessed with two amazing daughters who love me completely and support my dreams. Feel free to contact me with questions, concerns or feedback.

West Allis Fire Department


If any one of us has ever lived in the City of West Allis, I am sure at one time or another you have spotted the WAFD logo on the side of an ambulance cruising down your street. You will notice, for those neighbors who are home during the day, a crowd gathering out of “curiosity”. I am sure each and every one of us hopes for the best possible outcome for any patient who needs assistance and transporting.

For me, it held a much different meaning. My father, Thomas Hendricks, nicknamed “Papa”, was a West Allis Firefighter/Paramedic. When I think of his type of work, “family” comes to mind. Most of us have many associates or friends within our workplace. Yet, when you work long hours and depend on others through life and death situations, you become brothers and sisters.

I recall many visits to the station as a young girl. It was such a joy to be able to sit in the firetruck and beep the horn. Regular tours through the ambulance were part of the visit as well. I can honestly state that although we were not allowed to slide down the silver pole, it was exciting to look downwards to the floor below. When we made our visits, whether my father was working his shift or not, the guys always welcomed us with open arms. My father was a favorite among his associates. He sure knew how to keep the firehouse rolling. He talked of tales regarding his practical jokes among his co-workers. The guys love my dad and he still has many friends among them. I am sure his name will go down in history as one of the comedians amongst the group.

I recall one particular situation which has forever been burned in my memory. I was roughly 9 to 10 years old. My family was driving up National Avenue. My father swiftly pulled to the side of the road. We all got out and noticed an older gentleman cradling the body of a 5 year old boy. The child had been struck while running unattended between parked cars towards the middle of the street. My father begged the man to hand the child over, and explained he was a paramedic. My father attempted CPR and unfortunately, was not able to save this child. This is just one of many times my father has assisted in attempting to save the life of another individual.

Unless you have been fortunate to be a part of this “family”, you would never begin to comprehend the selfless acts of a firefighter. These men and women support each other and take care of one another's families. Even if a man or woman has retired out and they are in need, his brothers and sisters rally around. These men and women will donate their vacation time to another. When the spouse of a firefighter is critically ill, they will work extra shifts to alleviate one another. Those of us who work in corporate America will never comprehend the love they have for one another, we can only dream about it.

Each and every man and woman is trained to save the lives of others. It is most often overlooked and unappreciated. Sure, when you watch the movie Ladder 49 or World Trade Center, it may bring a few tears to your eyes, but soon after, you move on with your life.

The men and women who choose this profession are heroes. They know full well the stress and sacrifice it takes. Imagine going into work, not knowing what your day has in store. Today might be an easy day, responding to someone with simple pain. The following shift, the firehouse bell sounds at 3:30a.m. and you fly to the scene. A man, woman or child has been shot and it is your responsibility to save their life. You do everything within your power, yet, sometimes, the outcome is not positive. These men and women see the most difficult situations yet continue to serve. On the outside, they hold it all together, yet on the inside, I sometimes wonder how they do it. These are the men and women who will be there to assist you in your time of need.

I think it's time we get back to the basics and thank the men and women who save lives within our community. The same men and women of West Allis Fire Department used to have a real neat area to reside in during the week of the Wisconsin State Fair. They have now been re-assigned to an open, small area within the first 50 feet of the original front gate on the right hand side. The last time I attended, most fair goers walked right by, not even noticing. I say we give these men and women a larger area where they can be honored and appreciated.  Next year, please stop by and say hi.  It is a good teaching tool for your children and the guys would be more than happy to show everyone how things work. 

I feel honored to be a part of this family. Towards the end of my father's career, he was very ill. The guys stepped in to ensure my father was able to retire with full benefits. My sisters and I are so very grateful to the men who allowed this to happen. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for taking care of those who will probably not ever realize what you do and will continue to do for many years. If you see a firetruck cruising by, feel free to wave at the guys. They might have just saved the life of your loved one, and, most importantly, they deserve it!

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