Sunday, August 31, 2014

One Last Time...With Feeling

When a man becomes a fireman
His greatest act of bravery has been accomplished.
What he does after that is all in the line of work.
- Edward F. Croker

This morning I shall participate in one of my favorite events, which is the Jimmy D Memorial 5K race in New Brunswick.  This is the 10th and final edition of the Jimmy D, which for the past decade has been a daughter's labor of love and homage to her father.  Erin Vargas is the daughter of James D'heron, Deputy Chief of the New Brunswick, New Jersey Fire Department.   On September 3, 2004, while responding to a fire at a home in New Brunswick, a fire from which Deputy Chief D'heron and his firefighters safely rescued all fifteen residents of the home, Deputy Chief D'heron was killed.  A propane tank that had been located on the first floor of the residence ignited.  When it did, it sent a fireball up the stairs to the second floor.  Deputy Chief D'heron, who was on the second floor landing, was killed instantly.  In the decade since his death, the ceaseless efforts of his daughter and his family to help others, through the great work of the James D'heron Memorial Foundation, have been nothing short of extraordinary.  The Foundation's work shall continue although today marks the final running of its signature race.  It has been my pleasure and privilege to have participated, as of today, in exactly half of them.  

FF Timothy Matthew Welty was a member of Squad 288 in Maspeth, Queens.  As was the case with so many other of his brothers in the FDNY, he died on Tuesday, September 11, 2001 while responding to an event that occurred while he was off-duty.   His twelve-hour shift had just ended and he was getting ready to head home to Yonkers, to his wife Delia and to their two small children, when the flames from the World Trade Center became visible from his firehouse.  He immediately telephoned Delia to tell her he would not be coming home right away, put his gear back on, hopped upon a Hazmat truck and rode off headlong into Hell.

Thirty-four years young, FF Welty was the son of Adele and Bill Welty.  His dad was a college professor who, after his son's death, remarked that when he came one evening to see his then fifteen-year-old son (with no automotive training whatsoever) performing a brake job on a junk car he had bought for himself realized, "He has a kind of intelligence that I don't have."  It was an intelligence wedded to an artistic vision (he was also a carpenter) and what Delia referred to as "a philosopher's soul". 

FF Welty and Delia had two children:  Jake, who lived a little boy's dream of getting to hang out with his dad and his dad's friends at the firehouse whenever possible; and Julia.  Julia was only one month old when FF Welty died on September 11, 2001.  Due to the venomous cowardice of others, she has grown up knowing her daddy only through the stories shared with her by her mom and other members of her family as well as by looking at photographs and reading about him. 

Squad 288/Hazmat 1 in Maspeth, Queens lost nineteen men on September 11, 2001.  Together, the two lost more men on that terrible day than any other firehouse in the City.  

I can think of no more stirring symbol
of Man's humanity to Man than a fire engine.
- Kurt Vonnegut


No comments: