Some memories Fire Chief William Clough will not be able to leave behind as he retires after 32 years of fighting fires, including 26 years as chief.
Some memories are tragic. Like the time he tried to rescue a young man pinned between his steering wheel and dashboard after his car smashed into a telephone pole.The victim was swearing while Clough worked to free him. Once the steering wheel was moved aside, the young man died. But not before one final word to his would-be rescuer.
"The last thing he said, he called me a dirty name," the 61-year-old fire chief recalled. "That still haunts me."
Other memories remind Clough how far the fire department has come since he was accepted into what was an all-volunteer force in 1956. The force will celebrate its 15th year as a city department in July.
Several years ago, Sandy became the first city in the state to purchase the so-called "Jaws of Life," a tool used to pry accident victims from their vehicles.
At the next serious accident, all of the firefighters wanted a chance to operate the new device. But when the twisted metal was pulled away from the victim, the job of removing the body was left to the chief.
"They could do the work, but hadn't really mastered the tragedy that goes with it," Clough said.
That has come, he said, through a year-old program developed by the department that helps firefighters cope with the emotional demands of their profession. The program provides counseling for firefighters and other emergency personnel right after a critical incident.
"They've got to talk about these things, just to get them out of their systems," Clough said, citing as an example a firefighter's trauma from witnessing the aftermath of a teen suicide when he has children that age himself.
Before the support program came along, the fire chief and other longtime firefighters had to deal with the emotional stress by themselves. The worst part, Clough said, was the tendency to try to second-guess decisions that had to be made so quickly there wasn't time to rely on anything but instinct.
The fire chief's life will slow down with retirement, although he will help the city develop a disaster preparedness plan over the next three years. Clough said he looks forward to spending more time with his wife, three children and six grandchildren.
Still, he said, a screeching siren will always trigger memories.
"It's part of you," he said of his career as a firefighter. "There's just no way to put it in a file drawer or forget it. You live with it the rest of your life."