Friday, March 30, 2018

Steps & Stairs: Springsteen/Into the Fire

purchase [The Rising]

I recently read a poignant piece about fire-fighters ( The Perfect Fire) in which stairs played a major role. Obviously, a lot of the work of firefighters involves stairs, multiple flights of stairs in dark, smokey and deathly conditions. Granted, they are trained for these conditions, but there are always surprises and the job isn't one most people would likely choose off hand.

The article covers the story a multistory fire in Worcester, MA back in '99.
In a large multistory building, it's pretty crucial that the firemen keep precise track of their location. They've got tools: GPS locators, "squawkers" that emit sounds and live wireless/walkie-talkies as well as a lot of primitive [Hagar the Horrible] tools.

But sometimes that whole collection isn't enough.
When a fireball comes at you, none of the above may suffice to save you on its own. And so, sadly, in the case of [The Perfect Fire] - a more or less abandoned warehouse.

Fire-fighters may be the epitome of the working "man" - a thankless job without which society would be more or less paralyzed - kind of like the McDonald's employee? And Springsteen has always been a man pretty much in tune with the working man. He has sung <Factory>, <Working on the Highway>, <Jack of All Trades> ...

<Into the Fire>, from Springsteen's 2002 album The Rising is an anthem about these heroes. The album has been widely ID'ed as Springsteen's "response" to 9/11, with songs titled <Empty Sky> and <City of Ruins>, the claim seems pretty obvious. But there is much more than "the people who put out fires" in his lyrics and equally in his voice:
It's a song about sacrifice.
If I am not reading too much into the song, there's also a cross-over between an actual fire and the emotional/physical fire some may feel from some kinds of love - Love can burn and empower at the same time. Although not explicitly stated in the lyrics, it seems pretty clear that the fire-fighter referenced is a woman.

He sings:
It was dark, too dark to see, you held me in the light you gave
You lay your hand on me
Then walked into the darkness of your smoky grave
Somewhere up the stairs into the fire

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