Leadership

Firefighters Strengthened by ‘Emotional Support’ During 2015 Carolina Brotherhood Ride

Responders participating in the 2015 Carolina Brotherhood Ride.

SEE PHOTOS FROM THIS YEAR’S RIDE >>

Firefighters and other emergency service members drew strength from one another in this year’s 2015 Carolina Brotherhood Ride. The ride, the 2015 installment of which took place earlier this month, aims to provide emotional and financial support for the families of fallen emergency service members in North and South Carolina.

This year’s ride was the most difficult yet, according to an account by Raleigh (NC) Lieutenant Dena Ali. “On Sunday August 2, 2015, we met in Burlington NC to prepare for the ride,” Ali wrote. “That night, the widow of Firefighter Thomas Lee (Four Oaks Fire Department) joined us and shared stories about her husband. Additionally, the wife of fallen Cary Fire Department/Swift Creek Fire Department Capt Schondelmayer joined us. Initially, she was hesitant to come because she thought that this year was not about her husband (he died in 2013). However, we convinced her to come meet us and we explained to her that the mission of our organization is to never forget and to always be supportive of the families of the fallen. After she got home, she texted me and thanked me. What touched me was the fact that she additionally said that our organization, ‘helped her cross another hurdle.'”

Ali said the goal was to reach as many families as we could, by riding 621 miles in six days. Day 1 was a 73-mile to Yadkinville to meet the family of Chief Doub; Day 2 was a 109-mile uphill climb to Marion to meet the family of fallen officer Crisp and his K9, Maros; Day 3 was 122-mile ride to Monroe to meet the family of Sgt Greene; Day 4 was 109-mile ride to Manning to meet the family of fallen Investigator Holmes Smith; Day 5 was 105-mile ride to Myrtle Beach to meet the family of Lt. John Burns; and, finally, day 6 was 105-mile ride to Charleston, to meet the family of Deputy Matuskovic and Officer Blajszczak. “It was amazing to meet these families and to have them appreciate what we do and thank us for not forgetting their loved ones,” Ali wrote. “I believe we helped to remind them that their loved one did not die in vein and that the mission of all in public safety is admirable even considering the fact that our job requires us to risk making the ultimate sacrifice.”

On day three, Ali was almost tempted to quit. “What kept me going on day three was the fact that Firefighter Jimmy Greene of the Charlotte Fire Department was in the sag van behind us,” Ali wrote. Two nights before, while  they were in Yadkinville, several riders gathered around Greene outside to hear the story of when he was a new firefighter and lost his coworker, Firefighter Josh Earley, who died in 2002 when he fell into a burning basement while battling a fire with Greene (the hoseline was badly burned and unusable). After telling Earley’s story, Greene spent about 30 minutes telling them what he learned from that day. While there was nothing he could have done that day to prevent Earley from falling into the basement, there were lessons to make RIT teams more knowledgeable, such has having quick access to a ladder. Greene said that maybe if they had a ladder to drop into the basement, Earley may have survived. 

“What kept me going on day 3 was remembering after hearing Greene’s story and learning so much from another firefighter, how much I respected Firefighter Greene,” said Ali. “So on day three when all I wanted to do was quit, I did not, because I did not want to appear weak to somebody I respected so much. In surviving that difficult day, we were able to continue to show the families we road for this year, what we were willing to endure to show them that their loved one was not forgotten.”

Learn more about the charity at http://carolinabrotherhood.com/.