Wednesday, August 11, 2010

For Jack… forgive me, I almost forgot

In the Fire and EMS services we are fond of saying ‘Never Forget’. This is a reminder for those of us who have felt the loss of a comrade to keep them in your thoughts, remember the lessons they taught us either directly or through their actions, and to honor both their memories and the sacrifice they made. May God forgive me, I almost forgot Jack.
This blog, as many Fire Blogs, has the National Fallen Firefighters widget placed in the side bar. Each day around midday, a new Fallen Firefighter is listed in the widget with links to his or her story. This all leads up to the culmination of the ceremonies at the National Fallen Firefighters Memorial. I like the widget because it helps me remind others of those who will fight the beast no more as well as reminds us to always be vigilant, lest we succumb to the monster.
On August 9 and 10th, Jack Horton’s picture and story showed up in the widget. Ironic that it showed up this week and where I sit now. It was just a year and a couple of days ago that I returned home from the standard family vacation and after unloading the van I went to my PC to catch up on all the reading I had missed in the previous week. I was looking at the usual pages and came across the story of Jack’s Line of Duty Death report on At first I missed it, but then the name of the Department stuck in my head, followed by the state, and I had the realization in that split second that something terrible had happened to people I hold dear. I got on the phone right away and started calling family members in the town to find out how those so close to me were holding up under the strain. It took agonizing hours before I got a call back from the Department giving me he basic details and information on what I could do to provide support.
Because I maintain this blog in an anonymous manner, I cannot divulge my connection to Jack’s Department or its members, besides, it really doesn’t matter. Let’s just say “I’m related” and leave it at that. My main concern was to support the members of Jack’s department in anyway I could. I did not know Jack, but I learned an awful lot about him during the weekend of the Memorial Service and since. Jack was a wonderful Dad, a fantastic Chief , and indispensible as an Assistant Chief. Jack was the ‘safety nut’, always drilling into the younger members the safest way to do things and to “NEVER cut corners”. Jack was also the Department Instructor and focused on working safely and efficiently. Every member I know or met in his Department had a special respect for Jack because of the encouragement he offered each member at their own level based on their particular needs. In a Department having around 20 active members, Jack’s loss represented a tremendous blow to this dedicated and close knit team. Jack was Chief for many years before turning the post over to a ‘younger officer’.
It is in no small way ironic that Jack lost his life at a ‘routine’ auto accident call. The patient was waiting for EMS so he could sign an RMA, and the Department was assisting with traffic and the wrecker pulling the vehicle back onto the road. Jack suffered a fatal heart attack while acting as the backer for the engine. The rest of the details are not important. What remains is the pain of Jack’s loss to that small Department and his family, neighbors, and friends.
It becomes the responsibility of all of us to remember Jack, as well as all of those brothers and sisters who have made the ultimate sacrifice in service, be they career or volunteer. We need to carry on the lessons they taught us, and the friendship they shared with us. They are indeed, part of what we are today.
Here’s to you Jack.

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