That’s Why.

Friendship NY Firefighter Tom Torpey is flanked by his mom Sissy and wife Jessica at the Erie County Medical Center in Buffalo NY

Friendship NY Firefighter Tom Torpey is flanked by his mom Sissy and wife Jessica at the Erie County Medical Center in Buffalo NY

I recently responded to a post on FirefighterNation.com from my friend Adam Box, who shared the dilemma he was experiencing with his significant other:

Tomorrow, I will be attending the funeral of Elizabeth Fire Department Acting Captain Gary Stephens. This will be my second (unfortunately I doubt it will be my last) time attending a LODD funeral.

I was in a bit of a bad mood (about something unrelated) and was talking to my girlfriend and mentioned I would be attending the funeral. She asked me why, since funerals put me in a bad mood, I would go to another funeral that I didn’t have to go. I know I need to go.

My question, I suppose, is how do I explain to someone outside of the fire service the brotherhood that we all share and why I would feel compelled to go to a funeral of a man I’ve never met?

I read his question with great interest because I’ve been in his shoes before. I’ve tried to explain this “thing” that we share. I’m not sure I’m very good at it. Here was my response:

Adam -

You’ve answered your own question. The fact that you feel compelled to go to a funeral of a man you’ve never met – is the definition of brotherhood.

The answer to why you feel compelled to go – is because he would do the same for you.

That’s the real brotherhood of the fire service in its rawest and most public form.

I readily admit that it’s difficult to explain and can even be quite intimidating to those who “don’t drink from the same cup,” but as my good friend Art Goodrich said: If she doesn’t get it, she probably doesn’t get you.

Two words: Good Luck.

That very same day, I too attended the funeral of a firefighter from a neighboring county who died in the line of duty.  I never met the man, but you see, I didn’t need to. I know plenty just like him.

His brother firefighters did a great job in giving due honors to Corfu/East Pembroke Captain Norm Koch. I was proud to stand amongst my brothers in Genesee County. Here’s the link to the newspaper article detailing their efforts: http://thedailynewsonline.com/articles/2009/01/05/news/5025653.txt

Still in my Class-A uniform, I decided to go to the Erie County Medical Center to visit Friendship NY Firefighter Tom Torpey. ECMC is the trauma center where Tom had been since a brick wall collapsed unexpectedly on him and three of his brother firefighters from Friendship and Cuba at a commercial structure fire on December 22, 2008.

Tom’s a hard-working young man, a dedicated volunter, all of 29 years of age; and a father figure to five children with his wife Jessica. In what should be the prime of his life, those bricks crushed his body, but certainly not his spirit. He’s a fighter.

I went to his room, but he wasn’t there. Just a few days out of the ICU, and with the help of his wife and a fellow Friendship Firefighter, Tom was roaming the halls in a wheelchair, making friends and influencing people.

He’s completely aware of what happened that fateful Sunday morning. Feeling blessed that the outcome wasn’t worse, Tom keeps himself busy sharing his positive attitude with anyone who passes him in the hall. Not letting it keep him down, he’s already taking baby steps with the aid of a walker. But he’s far from out of the woods.

It’s expected that he’ll need close medical attention for at least another month or more, whether in the trauma center or after being moved to a rehab center closer to home, which is more than 80 miles away from the hospital in Buffalo.

For now, their lodging and transportation needs are being met through the graciousness of our local Ronald McDonald House in Buffalo, but there may be gaps where they need our help. Jessica is starting to go home on the weekends to take care of the kids and because of the distance, Tom will be left alone at times.

In just our brief encounter, I can tell that Tom Torpey is a self-motivated person. And to keep him motivated and in good spirits, everyone’s suggesting that he gets lots of cards, patches and visits from his brother and sister firefighters. See what you can do about that.

Send cards and well wishes to:

Friendship Fire Department
P.O. Box 503 – Friendship NY 14739

A benefit is planned for the four firefighters on Saturday-February 28, 2009 from 1-6pm at the Friendship Fire Department. A fund has been established by the Cuba and Friendship Fire Departments to assist the firefighters and their families with expenses.

You can visit the Cuba Fire Department’s web site: www.cfdsmokeeaters.com for frequent updates on the injured firefighters and fundraising efforts. Please send checks or money orders to:

Collapsed FireFighter Fund
c/o FASNY FEDERAL CREDIT UNION
107 WASHINGTON AVE.
ALBANY NEW YORK 12210

Before I left the hospital, Tom’s fellow firefighter thanked me for stopping by. As I shook his hand, I sensed that he was a little taken back by my visit, maybe wondering why I just appeared at the hospital, unannounced.

You see, I had never met Tom Torpey, but I didn’t need to. I know plenty just like him.

I thought to myself, “Because he would do the same for me.”

That’s why.

This blog is also published at YourHub.

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URLs in this post:
[1] Image: http://tigerschmittendorf.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/35/2009/01/dscf4362.jpg
[2] FirefighterNation.com: http://www.firefighternation.com/forum/topics/ff-funerals
[3] Adam Box: http://www.firefighternation.com/profile/Pokey559
[4] Gary Stephens: http://firefighterclosecalls.com/fullstory.php?77841
[5] Art Goodrich: http://www.chiefreasonart.com
[6] Genesee County: http://www.genfirewire.com
[7] http://thedailynewsonline.com/articles/2009/01/05/news/5025653.txt: http://thedailynewsonline.com/articles/2009/01/05/news/5025653.txt
[8] collapsed : http://www.buffalonews.com/437/story/530171.html
[9] Ronald McDonald House: http://www.rmhbuffalo.org/
[10] www.cfdsmokeeaters.com: http://www.cfdsmokeeaters.com

6 Comments

  • Michael Whitby says:

    Agreed all the way, 110%! Good job again Tiger! Please look at my discussions that I have started on the group pages of Hancock Hope and Ohio Firefighters on Firefighternation. I too have an issue with a downed firefighter that I do not know. John Seagraves told me about her and asked me to see what I could do to help her and her family. He made comment about the “brotherhood of firefighters” and asked if we “firemen” could get together and help out. I was proud to be a fireman at that moment and say I’m not sure if there is as he called it, “a brotherhood chapter of firemen in Ohio” but I’ll try to sound some alarms that I know of! (meaning firefighternation). Please take a look and see if you can sound any more alarms and/or get a response out of what I’ve posted.

    Thanks!
    Michael Whitby

  • Michael Whitby says:

    Agreed all the way, 110%! Good job again Tiger! Please look at my discussions that I have started on the group pages of Hancock Hope and Ohio Firefighters on Firefighternation. I too have an issue with a downed firefighter that I do not know. John Seagraves told me about her and asked me to see what I could do to help her and her family. He made comment about the “brotherhood of firefighters” and asked if we “firemen” could get together and help out. I was proud to be a fireman at that moment and say I’m not sure if there is as he called it, “a brotherhood chapter of firemen in Ohio” but I’ll try to sound some alarms that I know of! (meaning firefighternation). Please take a look and see if you can sound any more alarms and/or get a response out of what I’ve posted.

    Thanks!
    Michael Whitby

  • Tom Cannon says:

    As a result of working with Tom & Jessica Torpey I have realized that the firefighternation is truly bigger than any of us can imagine. Tom has recieved cards and letters from California to Wyoming besides all the cards from fire fighters and EMS personnel here in NY state. The brotherhood & sisterhood of firefighters is most visible in times of tragedy but the truth is a 24/7 365 thing.

  • Tom Cannon says:

    As a result of working with Tom & Jessica Torpey I have realized that the firefighternation is truly bigger than any of us can imagine. Tom has recieved cards and letters from California to Wyoming besides all the cards from fire fighters and EMS personnel here in NY state. The brotherhood & sisterhood of firefighters is most visible in times of tragedy but the truth is a 24/7 365 thing.

  • Joe Stoltz says:

    Last year I decided to sign up for our county’s honor guard. In our area, when a firefighter dies for whatever reason the family may request the honor guard to attend the calling hours.

    The duty requires Class A uniforms, and consists of standing guard on either side of the casket; opening the doors of the funeral home for guests; standing on either side of the entrance hallway, inside or out; and so on.

    It impresses the guests and the family is always extremely grateful.

    I sometimes wondered why I chose to do this. Recently I found the answer: http://tigerschmittendorf.com/2009/01/thats-why/

  • Joe Stoltz says:

    Last year I decided to sign up for our county’s honor guard. In our area, when a firefighter dies for whatever reason the family may request the honor guard to attend the calling hours.

    The duty requires Class A uniforms, and consists of standing guard on either side of the casket; opening the doors of the funeral home for guests; standing on either side of the entrance hallway, inside or out; and so on.

    It impresses the guests and the family is always extremely grateful.

    I sometimes wondered why I chose to do this. Recently I found the answer: http://tigerschmittendorf.com/2009/01/thats-why/

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