So this member of the band gives me a call, as he does from time to time, and tells me that he's still interested in being with the band, but he's got family commitments on Tuesdays, and can't make it to practice right now. Basically telling me that he's still alive. He's older (old-ish?), retired off the job, so I don't know if he's reassuring me or himself. That’s alright, I tell him. I’d rather have a small piece of his time than none at all.
Firefighters spend so much time away from their families when they don't have a choice, it's hard to make the choice to spend yet another evening away from your kids, especially when it's to do something frivolous like blow into a bag or wave sticks around in the air like a madman. But there’s another family that we end up serving: the brothers (and sisters) we see every third day. Everyone seems to serve in their own way, and there’s no single way that’s the best, but I can tell you just how we serve in the band, and that’s by standing up.
Roughly every 3 days this year, about the time I’m rolling into work, a firefighter in the U.S. will die and be declared a Line Of Duty Death. When that happens, they can drift out of memory, forgotten except by their families, their lessons and legacies lost to time. Or….we who stand up can be ready.
To stand by and be present for those left behind. They are not alone.
To silently stand and bear witness to grief. We will bear it, because it is our duty.
To create the soundtrack for a tragedy. Playing tunes ancient and modern that say Goodbye and You will never be far from our hearts.
To bring all the wailing ceremony and tradition together, and to say, “This man was my brother. I never met him, but I knew him. I will remember.”
Our brothers in blue have had quite a few LODD’s in past memory. We in the fire service have been a bit luckier, but eventually, there will come a time when we’ll need to stand up for the fallen and help their loved ones say goodbye. To do this is honorable. It is just. It is our duty.
Onoir Do Na Marbh