Tuesday, September 27, 2016

The Heavy Toll of Who We Are and What We Do

September 27, 2016

Who could have known that the past seven days would exact such a toll on the Fire Service? The answer? None of us. Another answer? All of us.

As of today, we have lost six of our comrades in the last seven days, including FDNY Battalion Chief Michael Fahy, who died this morning as the result of an explosion at an apartment in the Bronx that was very likely a grow-house. The others include two firefighters from the Wilmington DE Fire Department, Lt. Christopher Leach and Senior Firefighter Jerry Fickes who died fighting an apartment fire early Saturday morning; West County MO EMS & Fire, Firefighter Sean McMullin who was found unresponsive in his station on Saturday; Ventura County CA Fire Engineer Ryan Osler, who lost his life in a tanker rollover; and North Belle Vernon PA Safety Officer Charles E. Horan, who died as a result of a fall at his home while responding to a call. 

As we know all too well, unlike many occupations, the loss of a firefighter is like throwing a large rock into a quiet and smooth pond. Upon impact unnatural waves are pushed up and out; their ripples continuing in every direction until finally ending on the nearest shore. Each of the losses noted above exert a terrible price on the families of those who have been lost. However, the effect moves on, spreading wider as it hits the departments these brave firefighters were members of; continuing ever outward, they hit the friends of the victims, who did not look at them as just firefighters, but simply as "buddies." Finally, the ripples spread across their largest journey, as they arrive at us, the members of the fire service across this country, both current and/or retired. Thus, in our own way, in our own place, we find our own time to mourn; we mourn comrades that we very likely did not know on a personal basis. Yet we mourn, nevertheless.

If there is anyone who still doubts that firefighters really are a family, all they have to do is drop by their local firehouse. There, they will find some representation of our connection to these six firefighters; as simple as a flag flown at half-mast, to banded badges or even black or purple bunting. They will see us raising funds or collecting items to send out to help the families or their departments, to assist in any manner necessary, to several of us in a small group, talking about Line of Duty Deaths and what we can learn from each and every one.

Our "love" exacts a terrible price from us. Yet, after each tragedy, we steel ourselves and vow to do a better job, take better care of ourselves, learn more and of course, be more careful. The sad truth is sometimes, no matter how careful we are, we can still be knocked down. Let us realize that "Everyone Goes Home," is not just a colloquialism, it is our prayer every time we respond to a call!

Let us remember these six brothers and honor their bravery and dedication. Let their souls be bound up in the Bond of Life and may they rest in peace. Amen.

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