When the new firehouse came to the neighborhood I grew up in, it was a huge deal. I was 10 and the station was a few blocks from our house. It became a community gathering place in our little area, which had been recently annexed into the Raleigh city limits. It was Station 11, according to the city, and it cost about $100,000 to build.
My parents took me and my sister to see the fire truck (I was disappointed that there wasn’t a dalmatian or two running around). We’d take Girl Scout cookies up to the firemen (and they were all men back then). The fire house would celebrate its anniversary with balloons and open houses.
The fire house also served as our polling place. I remember mom and dad would discuss when they were going to go vote —before or after work— and one of them would usually take me along. I would proudly stand in the voting booth with them, curtain pulled tightly shut, while they explained to me that this was our civic duty.
To me as a little girl, the fire department stood for everything that felt good about America in a Norman Rockwell, idealized kind of way. The American flag always flew proudly from the station, the fire trucks were always shiny and ready to go be in service of others. You could have your Batman and Spider-Man. The firemen were our heroes.
When I heard about the 19 firefighters who died yesterday, I instantly thought of our firemen at Station 11. Even though I rarely saw them out and about while I was growing up, they felt like part of us. As it was with the Granite Mountain Hotshots, the elite group of firefighters who were killed while battling a blaze started by a lightning strike in and around Yarnell, Ariz.
The story is too much to bear: when they realized they could not escape, the firefighters covered themselves with heat-resistant tarps, a last-ditch measure that didn’t save them.
The only member of the 20-person team to survive was moving the fire truck. I looked at the pictures of some of the firemen and they were so young, just starting their adult lives. They were so willing to rush into areas that others are rushing out of.
Last year, I watched "Rescue Me" Denis Leary’s series about firefighters, from start to finish on Netflix. Leary, who grew up surrounded by firefighters, made the show as realistic as he could.The firefighting scenes were harrowingly realistic. Even though I knew it was fiction, it revived my appreciation of firefighters and their bravery.
The 100 Club provides financial assistance to families of firefighters, police officers or anyone who works for a public safety agency who is injured or killed in the line of duty. The 45-year old Arizona organization immediately stepped up to help the families of the fallen Granite Mountain Hotshots. They went to meet with the widows today, armed with more than $285,000 to disperse. The money will go to pay for flights to get family members in for the funeral, as well as aiding the Prescott Fire Dept. in replacing equipment. (According to the website, the idea started in Detroit in 1952 after a police officer was killed A Pontiac dealer wrote 100 friends and asked them for money for the slain officer’s expectant widow and all 100 friends responded with donations —enough to pay off her mortgage and her other bills, and even set up an education fund for her unborn child.
July 1: The 100 Club
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