I am not a Firefighter.
I’ve wanted to be… For quite a while now. I just never thought that I had it in me… I never pictured myself among those who did have it… The absolute Bravest among us. The ones who run into the most terrifying situations with faces that rarely betray them. With jaws set firmly, and steady hands like steel, facing what most of us can only conjure up in our worst nightmare, but to what they consider…simply… A job to do.
I’ve seen those faces so many times. Over the last five or six years I’ve been able to get to know many of them and am honored to call them classmates, coworkers, partners, and friends. Some of them I now count among my very best and closest friends. Some of them are trained in EMS in addition to Fire, some of them aren’t. Some of them volunteer their time. Some of them don’t.
Honestly, none of that truly matters.
Ultimately, we’re family.
We give each other a ration of crap just about every shift. Because we’re family.
We back each other up on scene. Because we’re family.
We laugh together… Oh, God do we laugh. Often until we have tears running down our faces… Because we’re family.
When one of us is in danger, the rest of us spring into action. We tend to take care of each other… Because we’re family.
And when… When any member of our family makes that ultimate sacrifice… When any one of us loses their life doing the only thing we’ve ever imagined doing, which is when it comes down to it, taking care of OTHERS… We ALL feel it. We all feel that empty space in our hearts. We ALL feel that loss. We all think about that the family members left behind… We all go to that dark place, that place where “What if…” lives.
Because we’re family.
Right now, a great number of my family are hurting.
Two of my… our… Brothers are no longer with us. Edward Stringer and Corey Ankum, both of Chicago Fire, were killed in a fire yesterday. December 22nd 2010. They clocked in at the beginning of the shift, I’d imagine, much like we all did. Looking forward to the holiday season, maybe… Certainly not expecting that that particular shift would be their last… Just ready to do what was expected of them. Regardless of what that was.
As I said… I’m not a firefighter. One day I hope to be. That being said, these two men are my Brothers. Doesn’t matter that I’ve never met them. And while I am mourning the fact that they are no longer among us, and that I truly feel empty with their loss, while I weep for their families, I have to celebrate the fact I was fortunate enough to be able to call them family.
Edward and Corey… Godspeed.
To those who knew you best and loved you most… we have the next watch.
Through the intercession of our patron, Saint Florian, have mercy on the souls of our comrades who have made the supreme sacrifice in the performance of their duty, and on all who have gone before us after years of faithful discharge of their responsibilities which now rest on ourselves.
Give us Grace to prepare each day for our own summons to Thy tribunal of justice. Into Thy hands O Lord, I commend my spirit. Withersoever Thou callest me, I am ready to go.
Merciful Father of all men, save me from all bodily harm, if it be Thy will, but above all, help me to be loyal and true, respectful and honorable, obedient and valiant.
Thus fortified by virtue, I shall have no fear, for I shall then belong to Thee and shall never be separated from Thee.