Saluting a hero: Terminally ill Pa. firefighter surprised with parade

On Saturday, 76 fire department trucks and more than 200 colleagues participated in a surprise parade for Firefighter Chris Cox


David Hurst
The Tribune-Democrat, Johnstown, Pa.

GALLITZIN, Pa. — Gallitzin firefighter Chris Cox has dedicated his life to his community — and making sure Cambria County's next generation of first-responders is prepared to do the same.

So when Cox's fire department family realized he was going to lose that life to cancer, they decided to make sure he knew the difference he's made, longtime Gallitzin Fire Chief Jim Nagle said.

On Saturday, with lights flashing and horns blaring, 76 fire department trucks paraded past Cox — with nearly 200 colleagues from Cambria, Blair, Indiana and Clearfield counties sending him a sincere salute.

They came from as far away as the Interstate 80 corridor, Nagle said.

"I couldn't believe it," Cox added during a telephone interview Sunday. "I had no idea what they were planning until the garage door opened and I saw all of those fire trucks coming past."

Nagle said he's a bit shocked the group was able to pull it off.

He created a private Facebook event page a few weeks ago "and it spread from there."

"But nothing usually gets past Chris," he said. "I don't know how we were able to keep it a secret."

Cox's wife, Jennifer, was in on the plan. She brought him to the station a short time earlier before the parade arrived.

Chris Cox said he was humbled — and "uplifted" by the moment.

He's been battling cancer since April — with chemo and radiation and immunotherapy.

"But nothing could stop it," Cox said.

But on Saturday — even if for a moment in time — it was no match for the bonds and firefighting brotherhood he's forged in his 28 years as a volunteer.

"That was so evident for me today," Cox said. "Seeing everyone here, it really put things in perspective."

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(c)2021 The Tribune-Democrat (Johnstown, Pa.)

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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