Yesterday, a young lady stopped by my office to ask about the Raising Engine 11 project. She shared with me that she has lost her husband several years ago after he suffered an unexpected heart attack. She said that after the loss of the Charleston 9, as a young widow herself, she felt a special connection to the wives of the 9. During the procession to the coliseum, she stood at the roadside with her six year old daughter. She taught her daughter to stand and place her hand over her heart to show respect for our heroes. She and her daughter talked about the project this week and the child wants to contribute a portion of her weekly allowance to “Raising Engine 11”.
As I have thought about our conversation and her gesture, it became clear to me that we are all very fortunate, fortunate to live in a time when respect for heroes in our lives is an important part of teaching our children and the next generation the value of a good life.
You have faced much difficulty in the past year. The loss of our friends has been terrible to bear. The intense examination of every aspect of this department has been brutal with more than enough criticism to go around. Throughout it all, you have held your heads high, never wavering from the call to do your duty. I have kept my opinions mostly to myself, for operations is not what our Team is about. But, as an old firefighter myself, I certainly have an opinion so, for at least this time, I want to share it with you. The Charleston Fire Department is beginning a rise to the top. Great things are on the horizon and each of you is a part of making this department a model for all other departments in this nation. It will not be an easy road but one for which the past year has prepared you. If the fire service is where your heart is, this is the place to be. Let’s honor our fallen brothers by giving it our all. Stay the course and keep the faith. I believe you will be glad you did.
And by the way, there are many, many people in this community who care about you and your families. You are their heroes and ours too.
Stay safe, my friends!