It was 4:00 a.m. in the tiny Midwestern suburb, the air was cool and still outside when a siren pierced the silence. The young boy woke to the sound of the siren wailing. During his short life he had learned to tell the difference between a police siren and a fire truck siren. The siren he heard that night definitely came from a fire truck. The boy knew his father was on duty that night and on his way to another fire or accident. He knew that that meant his father was in danger again.
I was that young boy over 40 years ago. I was the son of a firefighter. Last week I told you about how my father was a very deep man; a man who held out hope that the family he was leaving would carry on. Today I want to tell you about the hero that he was.
There are still nights when I am awakened by the sound of a distant siren and reminded of how I felt as the son of a firefighter. Often, as a child, I would lie awake after hearing that siren and wonder if my father would walk through the door in the morning when his shift ended. Horrible scenarios would run through my mind of my father trapped in a burning building, his crew desperately trying to get to him before the roof collapsed. Or my mind would insist that an explosion had occurred and my father was caught in the debris field, forever lost in a rain of sharp metal and burning cinders. I was plagued by images more terrifying than any child should have to imagine of Hell-like landscapes, my father in the center of them. But, every morning at 6:15 my father would walk through the front door as I prepared for school, sometimes still sooty from a fire the evening before. He’d smile at me and tousle my hair before kissing my mother and heading for a shower.
He took his work seriously. In his 20-year career as a firefighter he saved countless lives, helped deliver babies, fought merciless infernos, and even saved a cat or two. He left home every morning with full knowledge that it could be his last seeing his family, that any day any day on the job could bring an end to him. He understood and accepted the risks of his job because he existed to serve his fellow man. He was selfless, dedicated, and courageous. He saw no distinctions between color, age, social status, or political affiliation. If you were in danger or need, he would risk his life to help you.
My father never backed-down from a fire, never wavered in his resolve to preserve life and property from the ravenous beast that a fire can be. He plunged headlong into his job always believing he was making a difference, that the life he saved that day would enrich the world in some way. In the end, by doing what he did, he enriched the world. But, even this heroic man could not defeat the horrendous monster that took him. He deserved better.
I am the son of a fallen hero. He was a firefighter, a husband, and a father. He was violently taken from us 30 years ago by a foe even he could not fight: cancer. He was, and will forever remain, my personal hero.
This Saturday, May 14th from 7:00 PM to 11:00 PM you have an opportunity to revere the memory of this man with me. Intuition Ale Works is generously donating $1 from every beer sold at the May Springfield Brew Crew event to the Relay for Life to benefit the American Cancer Society. The event will be a celebration of my birthday which I shared with my father. We will laugh, drink great beer, enjoy each other’s fellowship and friendship, and remember.
I hope you will join us at:
Intuition Ale Works
720 King Street
Jacksonville, FL 32204
If you cannot make the event, I hope you will consider making a donation to the Relay for Life. You may do so at the Springfield Brew Crew website – www.sprbrewcrew.com – just click the donation link on the home page.