Fallen Fire Fighter Memorial

First and foremost I would like to thank all of you that visited this site over the weekend.  I didn’t take the time to check my email over the weekend so I had no idea that the site had an astounding amount of visitors over the weekend.  I tried to respond to everyone’s comments I think I responded to everyone if not I will very soon.  Thank you ALL for the kind words, the compliments and the encouragement.  I cant fully explain how much it meant to me.

 Fallen Fire Fighter Memorial

I am sitting under a tree far away from the memorial ceremony trying to soak up as much shade as I can before we have to play the final “retreat set” sweat is pouring down my face.  In the distance over the speakers I can hear the name…..”Walt Harris”…….”Detroit, Michigan”……”Died…….”  I turn off my ears; I know the exact date and the exact details of his death.  I came to play in honor of him this weekend, I am here for all of the fallen but it’s the pictures in my mind of Walt that I am here.  The father, husband, son and friend.  The bell rings and the announcer moves on to the next name.  122 of them went on the wall this year, 122 too many.  I sit and wait and try to get comfortable as you can get when you’re wearing a heavy wool kilt, jacket, socks and Glengarry and search within myself why this place one second excites me and the very next second I want to hold my face in my hands and sob.  But there by the grace of God go I….its my own mortality I think that draws me here every year.  It’s the reason I stand out in the sun for hours on end in rehearsals and then again for hours in the sun during the ceremony.    I run into his family downtown and their Department Escort convinces me to come in and say hi, reluctantly I agree.  It tears the heart out of me to look at them….then they thank me for playing.  It’s surreal, all I have to do is remember the notes of the tunes we are playing…they have to live with the loss of the one they love.  I can’t frame words around what I am thinking so I mostly just nod and say you’re welcome.


My usual Modus Operandi every year is to play the ceremony and the parade downtown for the families and then drink myself into absolute unconsciousness.  It’s what I am or was famous for.  I could close every bar downtown and then  party until the sun came up and bounced off of the Rockies.    Not this year, this year I played the parade and then took residence at a quiet out of the way restaurant with friends I don’t get to see but once a year.  We talked and reminisced; we laughed and carried on all in the comfort of absolute sobriety.  We told war stories and would fall silent when we would talk about the friends we had lost whose names were etched forever into that long black granite wall.  Soon enough we would be laughing again and when it was all said and done the sun rose again across those majestic peaks.  It looked different this year through sober eyes crisp and clean set against the cloudless blue sky.  We decided it was time to call it a day and caught the shuttle back to the hotel leaving just enough time for a shower and catch the shuttle to the airport.  The next time I will see them will be next year at the exact same place.  I sit in the terminal and say silent prayers that those guys who I love like they were family will be here next year and not be one of the names etched into the wall.  There is that risk the uncertainly of our own mortality.  Either way I will be there.

A few videos form the weekend…..I am the one wearing a kilt im pretty easy to spot.
The Memorial:

The Downtown Parade:

7 thoughts on “Fallen Fire Fighter Memorial

  1. I’ve done my share of volunteer work and have always felt a little uncomfortable when people come to thank me. I finally took my cue from a hotel I used to work in and now respond “it’s my pleasure.”

    I’m sure you already know, but this is a good thing you do.


  2. What you did was something we both desire to do and dread at the same time. We desperately want to honor our lost brothers and sisters while at the same knowing that we’re also saying goodbye. It’s indescribable and a little psychotic. But it’s also very, very necessary. We do honor to them and renew our own faith and calm determination to do the work that must be done.
    Their immortality is not in the plaques of honor that bear their names, it is in our memories of them that we carry in our hearts.
    Never forgotten. May it ever be so.
    I’m glad you’re home safe and sound my brother.

    1. Eric,

      “We do honor to them and renew our own faith and calm determination to do the work that must be done.” That is hitting the nail on the head Eric.

  3. Welcome home. It sounds like the experience was perhaps a little bittersweet, but at the same time I don’t think you’d’ve missed it for the world. In Australia, we have a saying – “lest we forget”. It’s applied in the context of ANZAC Day (Veterans Day), but is, I think, equally applicable here. It’s about remembrance, and honouring the fallen. Your mate’s memory will not fade whilst you and your fellow fireies keep it alive.

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