In Charleston the old town is sleepy tonight. Parents are watching election returns whilst children prepare for bed. Throughout the city firefighters stand ready to respond to calls at a moments notice.
Someone will roll out tonight and drive down the newly named Charleston 9 Memorial Highway. On the way to help someone they will carry with them memories of nine men who we all knew, loved, and respected.
As a former Charleston firefighter each of these men carry a special place in my heart. Those I worked with are always on my mind but the youngsters, eager to wear the patch, often find a place in my thoughts.
The long aftermath of the tragedy, wherein the IAFF came in and provided critical help in straitening out what was a complex leadership and management issue, are also in our hearts.
The families are the bravest. Holding steady while the world came apart around them was no easy task. Yet, when one looks for strength the families are first on the list. Yesterday they watched a highway dedicated and today they are still without their loved ones. We can offer them monuments but they want their loved ones.
The highway has long been used as a metaphor for life. We all travel the life highway wondering if we will ever make an impact on someones life. The 9 men of the Charleston Fire Department who perished on June 18, 2007 never have to worry. They impacted us all.