On a late afternoon, a handful of uniformed men with crew cuts relax on couches in the lounge of the Station 16 firehouse in San Antonio, Texas. Others gather around two long Formica-topped tables, reading the San Antonio Express-News and trading stories about their days off. In the kitchen, John Laskowski, a blond, broad-shouldered firefighter, prepares dinner. An electric mixer buzzes and the mouthwatering smells of roasting pork linger.
Suddenly it’s all interrupted by the blare of a piercing alarm and a dispatcher announcing the destination of the next emergency. With the exception of Laskowski, the men hurry into the garage and hop onto the ladder truck. The wail of sirens screams down the street.