New brothers, new sisters
We were trying to steal time. Four great friends- firefighters-three retired, one active. Eight days in Mexico with no thoughts of magazines, high-rise real estate, sales records and, in one case, no South Bronx responses.
Waiting to depart from LaGuardia, Dennis hurried to the group with the day’s newspapers tolling the death of a brother New York City firefighter, killed in performance of duty as a volunteer in his hometown of Port Washington, New York.
A pall fell over our thoughts and conversation. What happened? Did we know him? The fact was that Fire Lieutenant Robert Dayton had lost his life searching for other lives on the floor above a suspicious commercial occupancy fire. Our thoughts shifted to the wife and two children suddenly left behind.
A few days later, Dennis again hurried back to our group, now hosteled in a Mexican villa overlooking the Pacific Ocean, with that day’s newspapers. Suddenly and violently, the lives of six more of our brothers in Kansas City, Missouri had been snuffed out. James H. Kilventon, Gerald C. Halloran, Thomas M. Fry, Luther E. Hurd, Robert D. McKarnin, and Michael R. Oldham died instantly when a construction site trailer containing 17,000 pounds of ammonium nitrate-based explosives and blasting agents suddenly devastated their area of operations. Had it not been for the quick-thinking leadership of a battalion chief, many more would have died in a second explosion of 30,000 pounds, forty minutes later.
Our native cook, whose son was also a bombero in a nearby city, knew of our pain and made her concern and sadness known.
The facts and the lessons will follow, I’m sure-but now the sadness and now the concern.
Sitting in Mexico we all realized-again-that no one actually works for or in a fire department. We live it! We, as a national family, should be committed to our newly adopted brothers and sisters-the wives and children of our fallen comrades.
TTiis column is sadly dedicated to the memory of those seven firefighters, but more realistically to the stability and welfare of Pamela, Cecilia, Leota, Mary (Tom’s mom), Jewell, Deborah, Karen and fifteen children who must carry on without them.
May the good Lord hold them in the palm of His hand.