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Fallen Brothers» 10th Annual Waterbury FireFighters
To my fire service brothers (and sisters), and those assembled here in support of them, I say, Good Morning! Good in that we have gathered here in number to honor those who have gone before us in this noble calling. ...those who defined our mission and established our traditions... in word and in deed. ...those who so completely shared the joys and trials of their lives that they became our own... ...and those who lived so fully amongst us, and were taken so very early from us. Today we reflect on how much richer our lives are for having known them, and their like. The names we solemnly read today are those of our brothers... older brothers, who showed us the way, kept us safe, and tormented us, as older brothers do; and younger brothers, who sought our guidance and whom we proudly served with as they grew into the profession.
With loss tempered but slightly by time, we remember these men in moments of silence, and in the chaotic moments of firegrounds past which crystallized our memories of them in perpetual clarity. Seldom were they ever more alive.
To many the dawning of a new millennium brought the promise of prosperity and an improved quality of life. Optimism was near epidemic. It was the beginning of a new era, sure to be bigger and brighter than the moribund gloom of the late '90's.
Although the near, unfathomable loss of six firefighters in Worchester cast a foreboding pall over celebrations of the New Year, the ominous tide slowly receded as the comfort of normalcy returned, and anticipation began to bud anew.
The crack of gunshots, absent any meaningful context, disrupted a tranquil weekend morning... FireFighter Jamie Quinones, murdered in front of his brother firefighters as they collected for Muscular Dystrophy. No sense will ever be made of the crazed actions of a madman. No solace would be gained from such a rationalization. An uncertain start behind him, Brother Quinones had found his niche in the dept and was piecing together a happy life. The irony of death when fulfillment lies so close strikes at our core beliefs of self-betterment.
FireFighter Michael Annes, just one year with us. Brother Annes had realized the dream of secure employment at a position alongside childhood friends. A regular work schedule and more family time were finally his to enjoy. Hardworking Mike, who brought his knowledge of construction to recruit school to build upon and to share, who believed the best house to work in was the one with the greatest number of his friends in it. When Mike was taken from us in a construction accident, while supplementing his salary to make ends meet, his passing seemed surreal to us. Traumatic death, a stranger in recent times, was cutting deeply into our hearts, trying our very strength.
The next cut was somehow numbing and excruciating at the same time. FireFighter Kevin McDonald, 150% 24/7, living life to its fullest 36 hrs a day, Mr "How can I help?". Brother McDonald, also taken from us while trying to better provide for his family working another job.
Collectively these men are a cross section of this department's backbone. The new guy, feeling his way through; the six year man, comfortable in his position; and the decorated veteran, leading by example. Each of us can identify with them, and the similarity is troubling, because our mortality is difficult to confront. But the confrontation leads us to an inescapable truth. That Life is both precious and fleeting. It cannot be taken for granted or squandered, but rather each moment must be seized upon, and our priorities… be they family, our faith, work, or otherwise must be addressed. Too often lost moments turn into days, weeks, years,… and a life taken for granted vanishes.
To many among us priorities were clear in the year 2000. They lie in taking care of our brothers and their families. These members made it clear by their example that the finest tradition of the Waterbury Fire Department is not our aggressive interior attack, but rather our capacity to rally around our brothers and their families again and again. The enormity of these efforts, the depth of compassion displayed, are awe-inspiring, as is the sheer amount of time required. As this time had to come from somewhere, let us take a minute to thank all those who gave up time with their husband, father, son, or brother, so that we could take care of our own. Let us thank them for all the sacrifices they have made for us, and the community.
When you leave here today do so with your head held high. For we are the Waterbury Fire Department. The department of Annes, Quinones, and McDonald. Of Griffin, Rivera, Hughes, and Vallillo. We are the dept of Farrington, Brown, Murphy, Ayotte, and Teubner. Of Fraser, Quinn, Maloney, and Shugrue. Ashe, Frappier, and O'Donnell.
We take care of our own, and we take care of the matters at hand to protect ourselves and the community. We will not be diminished by misinformation and false accusations peddled by some [media], and those they choose to listen to.
For on this sacred day we rededicate ourselves to our mission, to our brothers, ourselves, and to our families. We are reinvigorated by the knowledge that our strength lies in each other, and those who love us.
Today in honor of those who have gone before us, we acknowledge the challenges which lie ahead, and commit to meeting them head on. Whether it is fire, or another foe we will stand strong together and prevail, our bonds forged in the hell that is a basement fire, and quenched in a cooler at a charity basketball game.
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