In director Panayioti Yannitsos’s new documentary, a bunch of firefighters in New York City, Toronto, Detroit, and Vancouver discuss the difficulties of working this job. As first responders, they’ve seen some shit, the worst of which is difficult if not impossible to ever forget. They bring those disturbing images and experiences home with them, intentionally or not, colouring their entire lives, affecting time spent with family. For a long time, the mental health aspects of the job just weren’t discussed. They attended each other’s funerals, never mentioning the word suicide but knowing what it was nonetheless. The post-traumatic stress is real, whether it’s named or diagnosed or not. This job takes its toll.
This documentary offers up an interesting cure. Florian’s Knights is a motorcycle club for firefighters. “Wind therapy,” one of them calls it. There’s something about the quiet and peace of the open road that allows them the time and space to process the pain and foster brotherhood with people who actually understand. [Florian is the patron saint of firefighters, fyi]
Silence and solitude have been the default and dominant methods of ‘dealing’ with the demands of the job for as long as holding a hose has been someone’s job. Finally, this club offers up the chance to actually express themselves in a safe space where family and work don’t have to be separated. It’s a solution they found themselves, and by offering new chapters to fire departments in different cities and countries, it seemed Florian’s Knights were likely to be a healthy alternative for battling the effects of PTSD.
Except not all motorcycle clubs are created the same, and some have an incredibly long history of violence and criminality. Once associated with the Hell’s Angels (in part by wearing 3 piece patches, emblematic of outlaw MCs), Florian’s Knights flounders. What will happen to men who have nothing else if this is taken away? Who wins?