Sunday, October 17, 2010

"Hope, Determination and Power"

Two years ago, we decided to rebuild our Camaro drag car as a tribute to the Charleston 9. I personally put a great deal of thought into whether it would be appropriate to build a tribute race car. I conferred with many friends and sought the advice of my teammates before proceeding. We believed that this car would be a way we could not only tell the story of our brothers, but we hoped it would be a way to engage other folks in our counseling program. When we unveiled the completed project to the Charleston 9 families, and to the crews of the companies that lost members, I continued to be unsure as to whether it would be accepted in the spirit that it was intended. At the unveiling ceremony, we received much support and heard comments such as, “this is the first event where we have not been looking at monuments or markers” or “I don’t know much about race cars, but this car seems to represent hope, determination and power”. Since that time, we have displayed the old hot rod at many events in many different locations. I continued to be moved by the people, young and old, firefighters and citizens, who look at this car in awe and walk up to place their hands over the names of the fallen. As time goes on, some people who view the car and its graphics have not heard of the Charleston 9 and that, in itself, is one of the reasons we will “Never Forget”. The sacrifices made by these men have changed the way business is done in the Fire Service, everywhere. We are light years ahead in firefighter safety and health now but there is still much work to be done. While I’m sure we would all do anything to reverse the events of June 18, 2007, we can do much to see that these men did not die in vain and that their memory lives on. This weekend, a young fellow came up to us at the dragstrip in Union County and asked, “Who’s the firefighter here?” I explained to him my position with our Team and counseling unit and he said, “I knew there had to be a firefighter involved in this, because no one else would put this much time into a car about the 9.” He went on to tell me that he had left the Fire Service due to the stresses of the job and that he appreciated what we were doing. He then shook my hand and gave me a hug. A hug from a man I had never met, a brother firefighter.

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