I guess being appointed the one to drape the black crepe at the firehouse is filled with mixed emotions. You are telling the community of the loss, as well as grieving at the same time. Handling the crepe must make one think of the future, and the fact that there is a possibility that someone might be hanging the crepe for you someday.
The Philadelphia Fire Department is committed to the safety and well-being of all the citizens of the city. I am certain that if we were to examine the job description for a firefighter, it would include a laundry list of the educational, experiential, and physical challenges involved. But at times like this, when we have another fallen hero, one might consider the elements of being a firefighter that don't appear in the job description but are embedded in the very fabric of this calling.
A firefighter knows that every time a call comes into the station, each member will respond wholeheartedly. There is no time to decide when to go or what to wear. The almost instantaneous response is all part of the job.
Television often shows firefighters in danger while sniping at a raging fire, and often, at the last possible minute, those in danger are saved. Unfortunately, life as we know it can be very different. There are no retakes on the battlefield of an intense fire. The men and women of the Fire Department know this, and yet they run in the direction of the danger, not away from it. Their selfless actions assure our safety and, at times, save lives.
Last week, Firefighter Joyce Craig responded to a call as she always has. She and fellow firefighters were attacking the fire, and she, sadly, didn't win this challenge. Yet her colleagues fought on, completing the mission.
Still, every firefighter is shaken to the core by such a catastrophe. They know all too well that, under certain circumstances, they could follow in the footsteps of their fellow firefighter.
Read between the lines of a firefighter's job description, and you'll understand that sometimes what will be required is the ultimate sacrifice. Firefighters know this but rarely talk about it. But the citizens they serve must recognize this reality as well. The community must rally around both the families of those who have fought the ultimate battle and the firefighters who still respond unselfishly to the call.
If you pass a firehouse in these days of mourning, you may pause as you notice the black crepe hanging there. Say a prayer for the one who is gone, but say another, too, for the many who still are willing to battle for the cause, which is the safety and well-being of all.