The most important stories of all
Two years ago, 2011 was my first year on the social media staff for the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation (NFFF) and, being my first time attending the Fallen Firefighters Memorial Service, I said afterwards that I was glad I was so caught up in the technology that I didn’t get caught up in all the emotion of it.
Last year, I wasn’t so lucky. I was tasked with interviewing and capturing the stories of the survivors about their firefighters.
Our goal was to capture 60-90 seconds of video for sharing via the Foundation’s various social media channels. Invariably, even if I talked to a particular survivor for 10 to 15 minutes, it wasn’t until the end or when I asked if they had anything else they’d like to share, if they had anything else they wanted people to know about their loved one — that the real gemstones of insight came out.
It was all raw, unscripted and very emotional. I’m not sure I’ve ever hugged and cried with so many people in one day, strangers at first, but not by the end of the conversation.
I interviewed more than 30 people in 12 hours, including a four-year old girl I sat on the floor next to as she shared her story about her papa who had died in the line of duty.
The entire experience was both a tremendous honor and a daunting, physically and emotionally exhausting task.
On top of everything else, the name of a local Erie County Volunteer Firefighter Jarrett Eleam with the Big Tree Volunteer Fire Company in the Town of Hamburg NY was added to the memorial wall this year. Jarrett died January 12, 2011 after suffering a stroke after SCBA training. I coordinated Jarrett’s funeral as part of my role as Deputy Fire Coordinator for Erie County Emergency Services.
Jarrett’s story and my very personal connection to it, is a story that I have stalled on writing since it happened, but one that I hope to finish soon so as to thank the many people who made it a true act of brotherhood and who deserve the public recognition.
I’ll be back for the Memorial Weekend again this October 5th and 6th to share the most important stories of all. I hope you can join me.
It is truly something that every firefighter needs to experience in their lifetime.
Here’s a link to the hundreds of photos I took during the 2011 Memorial Weekend. Following is a great video from a great company that does so much for the NFFF and the fire service. Rarely does a video do such a good job of conveying the importance and emotion of an event. This one definitely does. Nice job and thank you Motorola.