Real heroes answer the call; they deserve our support
The opinion piece below was included in a publication about the retirement of Butler Eagle publisher Ron Vodenichar. This editorial was originally published in the Butler Eagle on Nov. 22, 2020.
It was mid-February, 1962. The children of the household had learned to sleep through the wailing of the siren notifying the men of the volunteer fire department that an emergency existed and help was needed.
To us it was just another cold winter night, and we had no idea of the circumstances of the fire that would take the life of a young boy that night or the impact it would have on our father.
Tony had worked second shift at the mill that afternoon and had arrived home after his children had settled into bed. A volunteer fireman alongside his brothers, his brothers-in-law and his friends, he had responded to many calls for assistance. But this night was different. This call came for an occupied home structure on the same road where he lived with his family. The mobile home was a mere mile from his own home, and the children in the home were schoolmates of his kids.
This was the one and only time that the 33-year-old husband and father of nine children would carry the lifeless body of a child from the remains of a burnt home. The rest of the family had survived.
Devastated and over-whelmed with emotion, he returned safely to his home but left a huge piece of himself at that fire scene.
But still to come was the need to explain to his sons that one of their friends wasn't going to be at school that day or ever again. He, as all emergency personnel often do, felt a sense of guilt at having lost a victim, especially a child, even though it was an impossible task by the time the fire had been discovered. His biggest responsibility in life had been to care for his children and keep them safe, and it weighed on him immensely that another family had lost a child in a tragic manner. He would suffer extreme personal losses later in his life, but the memories of this night would never leave him.
That personal story explains most of why we admire and appreciate all emergency persons including volunteer firemen.
Much has changed in the past 50 years since that night. Volunteers are very hard to find. Women are now on the fire department active rosters. There are special classes to train the volunteers for safe practices and rescue technique. Back then it was taught father to son and brother to brother.
It is a better day, but some things never change. You never know when you get that call in the night how dangerous the situation may be. You also never know if the person needing help may be family, friend or neighbor. But these heroes rush from their homes and into danger because they know that is what has to be done.
They deserve our support in whatever way you can help. First and mostly they need more volunteers to help them. They also need support when the time is right or the need is there to build new facilities or purchase new equipment. The easiest thing to do is probably to write a check and include "thank you" on the memo line.
Be thankful that someone cares enough to be there and answer the call and the wail of the siren. You may just be saving a child's life.