Nearly two weeks ago, two Colerain Township firefighters died in a house fire. Capt. Robin Broxterman and Firefighter Brian Schira went into the burning house to look for survivors. The floor collapsed under them. They died of burns and inhalation injuries.
Capt. Broxterman was the first female captain in the history of the department. Don Patterson, the fellow firefighter she was to marry was at the site when news of her death came; she had just purchased new gear with her soon-to-be married name. Schira also served in neighboring Delhi Fire Department.
There is no professional bond closer than that of firefighters, I think. They came from all over for the funeral at Cincinnati's St. Peter in Chains Cathedral last week.
My wife volunteered to serve as an extraordinary minister of communion at the mass; she has been a pediatric burn nurse for 23 years, and her uncle was a captain on the local fire department when she was growing up; the husband of her old babysitter now is chief of that department. She has heard the tones calling firefighters to action her whole life, and she has made a career out of healing the wounds fires give their youngest victims. I think, last week, she heard her own tone calling her to action.
It was an unbelieveable spectacle, incredibly moving. The protocol firefighters follow for the funeral of a fallen brother or sister is calm and measured, rife with symbolism of the special calling they hear and obey.
We owe firefighters so much; this community, this entire region has poured heart and soul into letting them all know that at this difficult time.
Dying is not heroic. Heroic is showing up for work every day knowing it's your job to go into a burning building. Heroic is responding to an alarm quickly, efficiently, with calm and purposefulness. Heroic is overcoming our most basic instinct for self-preservation and putting yourself in harm's way for others. Heroic is doing all this not because it's heroic, but because it's your job. It defines you; it's what you do. Such selflessness is heroic. Such selflessness sometimes leads to death.
Firefighers know that. They accept it. They even embrace it. And last week, as the last call sounded over the caskets of Robin Broxterman and Brian Schira, this city let all firefighters know that we are grateful and we join them in their grief.