Tracy Lewis, firefighter.
"Of the roughly 11,500 firefighters in New York City, only 31 are women. My first year, I ran up 13 flights of stairs wondering how I’d get to the top. But I made sure I stayed right behind the officer, while the other guys straggled behind. Now, six years later, I’m the only woman in my firehouse, along with 11 men. My team carries the hoses: When a 50-foot-long hose is filled with water, it can be extremely heavy.
Fifty percent of my job is muscular strength; the rest is cardiovascular endurance and technique. Firefighting is about practice and training. I knew a guy from the military who thought he would ace the physical test just because he had huge muscles-and he had to retake it twice! The first thing female recruits say is that they’re not strong enough to be firefighters. But how do they know? We train for three months, working as hard as our male counterparts. If the men do 30 push-ups, we do them, too. My position wasn’t handed to me; I worked for it. When I look at my body, I see years of training.”