Monday, August 22, 2011

The People of This Village

On August 22, 2010 Westfield Firefighter James Pfeiffer died following an accident at his home. Pfeiffer was 30 years old. He left behind his wife Christine and their daughter Carly. At the time of her daddy's death, Carly was but one year old.

Carly was born a few years after her dad, doing what firefighters consider a day's work and the rest of us consider acts of selfless bravery, had slithered his way down into a crevasse in Tamaques Park to rescue someone else's child. It was an act that brought him national media attention. It was an act that he performed five years to the day before he died. Carly's daddy's actions saved not just a little boy but that child's family as well.

In the year since Jim Pfeiffer died, those in the community - including but not limited to the Town of Westfield where he worked, the Town of Cranford where he grew up and firefighters from all over (whether they knew him or not), have come to the aid of Carly Pfeiffer. Shortly after his death in late August, Jim Pfeiffer's memory was honored by Hal Smolanoff at the Jimmy D 5K in New Brunswick - a race organized by the family of New Brunswick Deputy Chief Jame D'Heron who died in the line of duty. Hal Smolanoff set up a fund-raising page to facilitate donations to and for The Carly Pfeiffer Fund and raised more than $1,100. Smolanoff and Pfeiffer did not know one another. It mattered not. Pfeiffer had been a good friend of one of Smolanoff's very good friends and the latter needed nothing than that to help the former. And to help his young widow and their baby girl. Hal Smolanoff's actions continue to help the Pfeiffer family. The web site he created is still active and donations to the Scholarship Fund can still be made through it.

In the year since Jim Pfeiffer's death, the community to which he belonged has continued to do its part. Last September, a gym in Garwood had an event to raise money for the Fund. In October, school kids in Westfield - through the good efforts of the Junior Woman's Club - did their part simply by doing their chores. Teachers at the Roosevelt Intermediate School held a comedy night fundraiser in March. In May, the KilKenny House, an Irish pub in his hometown of Cranford, hosted an all-day fundraiser. And through it all, his brothers from Westfield FMBA Local #30 have done all they can do. If I was enjoying a pint of Guinness while writing this, I would raise it to each and every person who - whether they knew FF Pfeiffer and/or know his family or not - has stepped into the breach to help.

I am among the number who never met Jim Pfeiffer. Everything I read about him in the immediate aftermath of his death indicated to me that he was quite an exceptional man.....and would likely be the last one in the room to acknowledge that about himself. And one year further on up the road, the impact he made in the lives of others is evidenced by the continuing impact others want to have - and feel a need to have - in the lives of his loved ones. He cannot be replaced. The pain of loss goes on. As does life....

....As does love.

There is a land of the living
And a land of the dead,
And the bridge is Love,
The only survival,
The only meaning.
- Thorton Wilder

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