Clay’s Editorial: Why We Should All Want to be a Fireman
I was asked to say a few words at the North Boston Installation Dinner over the weekend and I decided to share them with you.
For those that know, I love Karaoke. However, I only have one song that I sing. It’s George Strait’s…”The Fireman.” It’s an easy song for me to sing and it’s less than three minutes long... people in the audience don’t have to put up with my voice for long.
But what some of you may have never heard in my 20 years at WYRK, is that I have always wanted to be a fireman. I remember back in the early 90’s when it was OK to refer to you as “firemen.” Now , you are all firefighters.
Family of Firefighters
There have been a few firefighters in my family. As a matter of fact, my grandfather, Harley Moden was one of the first members at Hillcrest and my father would remind us every time we drove down Ellicott Rd. that he even helped to build the hall there.
But when I was 10 or 12 years old, I wanted to be just like my older brother Chris. He was a member of the East Aurora Fire Department. I even remember that he was a member of truck 5. Not sure really what that meant at the time but like younger brothers, I wanted to be everything that he was. I would listen intently to the scanner in my parents' kitchen when calls would go out for the fire department to respond to a house fire, or auto accident or even the occasional basement flood. My brother would drop everything and hurry to the hall.
I listened to that scanner so often that I even knew the order of the tones when they would test “home receivers” at 5:30 every evening.
Let me take that one step further. This is probably the most revealing/embarrassing part of my obsession for the desire to be a fireman. There were times that I would put my little yellow rain slicker on, my rain boots, the plastic hat that I got at the Fireman’s Building at the Erie County Fair and get on my bike and ride up and down our street “responding to calls!” I even had a toy siren and microphone to let the people know to watch out for my “truck!”
THANK GOD there were no cell phones or Go Pros, cameras or internet at that time. That would have been on everyone’s Facebook page!
Radio and Family
Fast forward a few years to my radio career and my “adult” years.
One of the perks of what we do is getting to be involved in events like these tonight. (Actually, the best perk that I have had because of this job is getting a free beer or two from the guys at the Eden Corn Festival.) Although if you ask Elizabeth, it’s because most of her family are firefighters in Eden and the beer is a “family perk.” It’s an ongoing debate.
And speaking of my wife, she and I met at her brother’s wedding. I had met her father, Dave a few years back at a fundraiser concert on Route 75. Perhaps you’ve heard of “The Langford Jamboree?”
Dave had asked me to DJ his son David’s wedding and I met Elizabeth there. The rest is history. To this day, I turn down DJ jobs for weddings. The last one I did, I ended up with a wife!
Elizabeth’s dad was more than a father in law to me. He was one of my best friends and taught me so much in just a few years that I knew him before he passed away last March.
A Major Impact
Dave was a past chief in Armor and it’s what I learned after he passed away that really has made an impact on me.
I don’t think a week has gone by when someone will approach me and share a story about Dave’s dedication as a firefighter. He was always so quick to respond to a call.
But what I have heard and learned about my father in law’s time as a firefighter is what is inside of all of you here tonight. Beyond the cool trucks, tools, sirens and lights (and free beer) there is a passion for people. It’s a passion for all people no matter what or who they may be. When those tones go off and you are asked to respond, not a single person in here asks who is involved or how will this affect me personally. Will people notice what I am doing? Will my family and my church realize and appreciate the danger I may be facing? Will my friends know that in just a few minutes I could be considered a hero for saving someone?
Dave said something to me once that I haven’t forgotten and think about a lot these days. He said; “you don’t ask people if you can help them, you just do it.”
Sounds simple but it’s the essence of what you as firefighters are all about. From going in to a building filled with heat, smoke and darkness to giving CPR to a child who is choking or comforting a mom or dad when they arrive at an accident scene and find their worst nightmare is reality and their son or daughter didn’t survive the trauma, you as firefighters don’t “ASK” how you can help…you just help.
I still listen to my scanner in my garage and still appreciate the beauty of a shiny ladder truck. But these days, there is something bigger, something more important that makes me envious of what you as firefighters do.
Just like that scrawny little kid on his bike in a raincoat; we should all be a bit envious of what you do and who you are.
I have been thinking about it and It may sound trite, but deep inside, in some way, we should all want to be a fireman!