The year 1999 was significant for me in a lot of ways. One way in particular in that it was the first year I became truly aware of the Line Of Duty Death or LODD. I was 17 and had been a member of my local VFD for 2 years. I had gotten my firefighter 1, 2 and haz mat operations classes out-of-the-way the year before, and I was counting down the days until I turned 18 and would no longer be a “cadet” member and be a full voting member of the fire station.
1999 became not only about the waiting game and being patient, but it became about the reality of the fire service. Now do not get me wrong I was fully aware of the dangers, but for a 17-year-old kid they didn’t seem real, or at least didn’t seem like they could happen to me.
Then in a flash 1999 became very real.
In May the Cherry Road Fire happened in DC and Killed Anthony Phillips and Louis Matthews. Being about 2 hours from DC the information came pretty fast even in the infancy of message boards and chat rooms.
Then in December two LODD’s would rock not only the fire service world but my personal world. December 3rd would mark the Worcester Cold Storage Fire killing 6 members (Paul Brotherton, Jerry Lucey, Jay Lyons, Joe Mcguirk, Tom Spencer, and Tim Jackson).
Then on Dec 18th 1999 one month prior to my 18th birthday Brad Mcneer was killed in Chesterfield Virginia. While not as high-profile it was significant because Chesterfield is right next door. I knew members of the Chesterfield Fire and EMS department, and my volunteer department sent units to cover during the funeral. The most impactful was that Brad was a lot like me a volunteer whose goal was to become a career firefighter. He was only 22 and in an instant his life and dream was taken from him, in an apparatus crash on the way to a call.
While at the NFA I had the chance to view the plaque at the National Fallen Firefighters Memorial for the year 1999.
While there I thought about all the names on all the plaques, especially those that have impacted me the most. It made me feel lucky to get to do the greatest job in the world, but also made me feel like we do not do enough for our fallen brothers. We need to honor their memory everyday not just when an anniversary hits.
I know I am going to continue remembering the impact 1999 had on me. I am going to continue climbing stairs in honor of the 343, and I am going to always learn from the LODD’s and near misses that happen.
As usual thanks for reading, spread the word, and STAY SAFE!