We have a wide range of acquaintances here, so we get to hear bits and pieces of local gossip from all over the place. Like this, for example. (By the way, I’m not going to go all Peter Mayle and start using people’s real names. That’s a good way to suddenly find our acquaintances no longer acknowledge us.)
Our hero is a local businessman in a village in the Luberon valley. We’ll just call him H (for hero). He was in his place of work one day, when someone came running in to tell him that his uncle’s house was on fire. Well, he ran as fast as he could to his uncle’s house, to be met with smoke billowing from the doors and windows. He knew that his uncle was inside – I’m not sure why he was so certain, but he was. He grabbed a piece of carpet that was on the ground near the front of the house and draped it over himself, to try to provide some sort of protection. Then he made his way into the inferno to look for his uncle. And inferno it was, so I am told.
He eventually found his uncle in the bathroom, trying to keep the flames at bay by spraying water from the shower head. He dragged his uncle back out through the flames to safety. The uncle had some minor burns on his face – his eyebrows were singed off, some of his hair too – and H had a burn on his arm as well as some similar hair loss, but both were fine.
What a brave man – he said afterwards that he didn’t even think about what he was doing. I guess, in a situation like that, the heroes are the ones who react without too much analysis.
The pompiers arrived soon after the uncle had been rescued, and they put the fire out. Then they searched the house for the uncle’s cat, presumed by all to have been burned or suffocated. They finally found it, huddled up in a corner – alive. They carried it out and proceeded to give it oxygen. The mental image that this provokes is beyond description – the burly pompiers, huddled over a cat, holding an oxygen mask over its little head, the burned house in the background… What wonderful people!
In sharp contrast to the firemen in a story from my teenage years :
A Shannon family was woken up by their dog barking in the middle of the night. The house was on fire, but all of the family got out, thanks to the dog. The dog, unfortunately, did not make it.
The firemen came and extinguished the fire. They came across the dog’s lifeless body and chucked it out through a broken window, like so much rubbish. Right in front of the distressed children whose lives it had saved.
Bravery is all very well, but compassion is just as important.
Kudos to our local heroes – all of them.