A deputy prepares for a funeral.
On the morning of December 8th, I was working as the support coordinator for a phase 4 burn day at the Massachusetts Fire Academy. As is my usual routine, I woke up at 0540, let the dogs out, fed them, and then left for the Academy to be there by 0630 for the meeting with the day’s Incident Commander and instructional staff to determine the apparatus and equipment needs and to get the matrix for the day’s burn evolutions.
As I entered the Academy’s ready room, I noticed that the mood was somber (usually, the banter at the table is similar to the type heard at any firehouse in the country over morning coffee… stories of calls that happened recently and the usual good natured ribbing).
The instructors were talking about the three alarm fire on Arlington Street in Worcester, and that there was a structural collapse with 2 missing members. There are a lot of Worcester Jakes who work at the State Fire Academy, and the staff members were making phone calls to make sure that the 2 firefighters missing were not any of ours. After a few minutes, we found out that none of the Academy’s personnel were among the missing, but that a few of them were at the fire and still on the scene.
From what we heard, the RIT team operations went just as Worcester had trained for… Firefighter Brian Carroll was found first and transported to the trauma center at UMass Memorial Hospital, unfortunately, Firefighter Jon Davies was found but succumbed to his injuries.
The flags were lowered to half mast at the Academy, and the firefighters in the Recruit class were made aware of what happened. Fire training that day was a little different than other burn days.
Once the funeral arrangements were announced, I did what countless other Brothers and Sisters do when they hear of a line of duty death…. I pulled my dress blues out of the closet, making sure that my badges, lapel pins and mourning tabs were all in the proper alignment. I took out my shoes that I wear with my dress blues and polished them until they gleamed. I then took out my overcoat and made sure that I had the white winter gloves and my earmuffs still in the pockets. The weather for fire department funerals in December in New England can be either spring like with temperatures in the high 40’s to 50’s; it could be raining, snowing or they can be bitterly cold with a wind chill that slices through your layers of clothing like a Ginsu knife… being prepared for both extremes is mandatory.
On Thursday, December 15th my Fire Department will be sending an Engine company to cover one of Worcester’s stations so the Brothers in Worcester can say goodbye to FF Jon Davies; I will be attending the funeral with a contingent from my Department to honor his sacrifice.
I dream of a day when we as firefighters can all get together and hoist their favorite beverage to celebrate a year with no line of duty deaths… I can dream, can’t I?
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