Thursday, October 25, 2007

Aluminum Planes and Iron Men

In which we pay tribute to men with nerves of steel

Today the air itself seems alive with a surreal orange glow. The Santa Anas have subsided and ash drifts slowly down. Most of the fires have come under some semblence of control, though those around Arrowhead still fester and flare. It's like a war, one with no moral amiguity whatever.

As in other wars, air power in this fight has been pivotal. Those of us watching on the electronic sidelines here in SoCal have seen the dramatic images of Tanker 910, an enormous DC-10 jumbo jet modified for fire fighting, barnstorming its way like a biplane down the canyons to drop its 13,000-gallon ordnance of bright pink fire retardant on lines of flame more than a mile long. The sight of it is magnificent and awe-inspiring.

It's times like these that men are at their best. I don't know the pilot of this plane, but right now he's one of my heroes. Three words: Nerves. Of. Steel.

Outside, I imagine, he's wine-cellar cool, ticking off the numbers on his task list with all the flawless attention to detail of a tax attorney. But inside, I imagine, his soul is reveling in the danger, bearing down on his enemy with a mighty interior, "YEEHAW!"


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