‘Dear Brothers’: A message to the fire service brotherhood and sisterhood
Understanding the enormity and power of support that comes with being a part of the fire service family
A message from the author: During the first few weeks following the tragic events of September 11th, 2001, I found myself attending a funeral for a firefighter who had lost their life on that fateful day. While at the service, I happened to overhear a conversation between two individuals. It became clear to me that they lacked an understanding of the deep bond and camaraderie that exists within the fire service family. Given the solemnity of the occasion, I refrained from initiating a conversation with them, wondering if I had misheard their words.
Later, as I returned to my firehouse, discussions around the kitchen table began. I shared my concerns about what I had overheard and realized the need to compose a piece that would articulate the essence of our firefighting family, helping others comprehend our strong connection and shared values.
I wrote it specifically for new firefighters. After sharing the letter with a few people, an expression that everyone needs to understand who we are as first responders became clear.
Thank you for taking care of my brother while he was here on earth.
When I was in probie school, I was told that I had brothers whom I never met. I was told I would not meet all of them, some I would see and not know they were brothers, and others I would know they were my brothers and speak to. I was told the people sitting in the room were all my brothers. In fact, I was to learn the person telling me all this was also my brother.
I was staggered by all of this, so when I went home to my wife and young son, I told my wife. She didn’t seem to understand what I was saying. That was OK because I did not and could not fully comprehend it myself.
My wife informed me that my father called to see how my first day went. I called him back to share with him the day’s passing, the highs and lows, and the laughter. I told him what we were told about being brothers. He told me, “Although I am your father by blood, I am your brother.” Your classmates are also my brothers.”
When I went to sleep that night, I knew I had entered a new era of my life.
Ten years have passed now. I have met so many of my brothers. I have also lost a lot too. Many of whom I have never met. Many of whom I have shared a common story, a softball game, a backyard BBQ. I have seen them get married and have young children. Their wives have laughed with us all.
My brother went to your firehouse, and you took great care of him. I know because he told me so. I also know because this family is small, and as the saying goes, “If you want to keep a secret, don’t tell it in the firehouse.” I know because his wife told me. I know because his friends told me. I also know because you could see it on his face.
My brother is gone now, like many of our brothers. You gave your all to him and to them. I am ever so grateful. What has happened, neither you nor anyone else could have known the dire consequences.
I stood in silent umbrage shoulder to shoulder with brothers from across this great city, across this great country, and from around the world. As a gesture of respect to them and their family, I stood as the pipers played and the caisson carried memories of yesterday. With a final hand salute called, we stood silent, hand raised to the brim of our uniform hat.
Then I heard it, the solemn sound of “Taps.” The simple notes filled the air, drawing the last few tears from my eyes.
Gazing straight ahead at his family, the tears flowed more as I wish I could somehow have the power to wipe away their pain.
The helicopters flew overhead carrying the note of Taps with it. It seemed like forever had come and gone when the command “Ready Two” was given.
Now with arms tightly at my side, I watched as he was carried away to his final resting place.
In front of me you stood frozen on the steps of the church. I feel your pain, as you are also my brother, though we have never met.
Thank you for looking over him while he was alive, and while all of us, all brothers, said goodbye.