Tomorrow morning, the Canadian Fallen Firefighters Foundation will officially unveil a monument to fallen firefighters on LeBreton Flats in Ottawa. The names of some 1,100 firefighters who have lost their lives will be etched on the memorial which was designed by artist and author Douglas Coupland.
Not all of the men whose names are on the monument died rushing into burning buildings. Some of them died in traffic accidents rushing to fire scenes. Some of them died when their hearts exploded from the intense heat at a scene or because of the sheer stress and adrenaline. Still others were pilots and crewmen who died trying to save Canada's wildlands. Many, many others died from cancer they developed as the result of their jobs.
A lot of those men did their job for no pay, in the service of their communities. While I commend the others, I believe the volunteers are the real heroes who sacrificed time with their families and at work to protect their neighbors.
I know a few of the men whose names will be etched on the wall. One of them was the Mississauga Fire Chief, Garry Morden, whom I knew through his work with the Canadian Association of Fire Chiefs. Garry was an excellent person, a fun guy to have a beer with, a caring chief who was loved by the men and women of the Mississauga Fire Service.
I chatted with Garry at the CFFF ceremony the year before he died. He was near death but he wanted to be at the ceremony to honor his brothers. I found it heartbreaking that Garry was sitting there realizing his name would be read out the very next year, while his families received his black helmet.
Tomorrow, I will be thinking of Garry, and of Doug Lock, the former treasurer of the CFFF who passed away just last year. Doug was never a firefighter; but he dedicated the final years of his life to raising money to build a monument. Sadly, Doug never lived long enough to see the product of his good work.
Good work fellas. I'll look for your names.