A survivor's story: The husband, father who fell in the line of duty


It was a Sunday afternoon and we had one of those summer thunderstorms that Georgia is famous for. The storm blew down several trees on a certain stretch of a dirt road that our community volunteer fire department covered.

We had just sat down to eat dinner when the call came out for the department to respond to a fallen tree.

Several firemen had responded and went to the scene. So my husband decided to stay and eat with his daughter and me. Just as we were finishing up, a call came in for more assistance. So Jay headed on out to the scene.

It was 100 degrees and 100 percent humidity on this day. You could cut the air with a knife. My last words to my husband were, "If you aren't home within an hour, you're going to be on restrictions."

I knew that this was a fairly routine call and shouldn't take that long to get it cleaned up.

Knock at the door

In about an hour's time, maybe a bit less, a sheriff's deputy, James, who was also a neighbor, knocked at the back door.

My thought was, "James must be looking for Jay." My first words were to James were, "You know Jay is out on that call with the downed tree."

James said, "I am here to get you. They need you at the hospital. They are taking Jay there now."

All I can think is that he has had some kind of trauma with a chain saw. I am thinking limb here, not life. So we rush out to the hospital in the sheriff's cruiser.

God had enough foresight to see that my oldest child was at home so that I could leave my youngest there with him and not have to subject her to this horrific scene that I would be facing.

In the cruiser, James tells me that, "It doesn't look good and that they were performing CPR on him." My world just crashed.

At this point, I am about to panic. I am a Registered Nurse with many years experience in the Emergency Room. We pulled up to the hospital as they were unloading my husband from the back of the ambulance.

What I saw did not look good. However, I tried to remain hopeful and of course I was praying desperately for the God I know to save my husband's life.

He and I were surrounded by fellow doctors, nurses, paramedics and firemen that we have worked with on many occasions in our community.

Above and beyond

I can say that everyone who responded to the situation went above and beyond to try and save my husband's life. For that, I will forever be grateful.

Needless to say, he didn't make it. It was determined that he had suffered a massive heart attack. In came the family and friends from our community. My family lived an hour or two away. They got to me in breakneck speed.

All I could think of was how much I wanted my Mama to tell me this was all just a bad dream. In the meantime, our son and daughter showed up at the hospital.

The hardest thing I have ever had to do was tell them that he had died. My middle daughter was in Covington, Ga., at the state FFA camp. She was driven home by some great camp workers who followed in her car as well.

The state of Georgia has a great response team that comes in and assist with a line of duty death. They gave me suggestions and ideas on how to handle my husband's visitation, funeral, and burial.

They never pushed, just suggested and offered their assistance in any way possible. I am forever grateful to this great group of men and women who volunteered their time to help me and my family through this tragic process.

The local sheriff's department, Ga. state troopers, and local fire departments were all involved in a great public honoring of my husband's lifetime commitment to serving his community.

The state of Georgia Local Assistance State Team did an excellent job in helping me prepare all of the information that I needed to apply for my husband's LODD benefits for federal and state level.

The local county fire association helped me prepare and obtain all LODD benefits that we were eligible for at the county level.

The role of the NFFF

Then comes along the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation. They have been very supportive along the way with the many programs. I have received letters of encouragement from survivors who understand what it is like to go through the same things that I am facing.

They understand how I feel when I can't express my feelings to anybody else. I attended the Survivor's Conference in San Antonio, Texas, this past May and it was such a great event.

I received not only a wealth of information and knowledge from the classes that I attended, I also received great loving support and understanding from not only the other survivors there, but also the foundation staff.

They take us in and welcome us as family. Many are also survivors themselves. I began to interact with other survivors who are experiencing exactly what I feel. This helps me not only to cope but also offers me guidance and assistance on how to help my children cope and adjust to a new life.

We attended the National Memorial Service in October, where my husband was honored. My children and I received so much love and warmth from everyone involved.

There are fellow survivors there who have walked this journey and they return each year to help other families as they were helped. The NFFF staff and all other volunteers who take the time out to care for you at this event go above and beyond the call of duty to show their honor and respect for your family as well as your firefighter.

I have attempted to move on with my life by returning to school. I want to expand my abilities to help others feel good about themselves.

I no longer work full time as a Registered Nurse, but continue to do some part time work where I feel good about helping others.

I cannot say that I will ever return to nursing full-time. I do not handle or thrive on the stress as I once did. I have found that I try to make my life simpler in terms of what I want and need to accomplish.

Raising a daughter

My main goal is to raise our youngest daughter to be a well-adjusted young lady and to remember that even though she suffered a great tragedy at such a young age, she can be anything she wants to be.

I strive to be the example of a parent that I know my husband and I were together. It is not easy being a single parent and I wouldn't recommend it to anyone.

However, I have learned that I must make the best of the situation given to me. I will also continue to help others in all that I do.

I volunteer with the NFFF Survivor's Support Program and will continue to attend all the survivor's events that I am able to. I will volunteer for future memorial weekends to help honor and care for the families who have lost so much.

I also wish to participate in actively fundraising for the NFFF. I am an active volunteer/survivor with the Georgia Fallen Firefighter Foundation that has recently been organized and is just taking root within our state to help the local families of LODDs.

I will be expanding my realm of education while I become involved with several training programs for fire service members. Especially close to my heart are the Taking Care of Our Own program by the NFFF and the International Association of Fire Chiefs Wellness/Fitness Initiative.

I believe that every department member should have a yearly physical and also participate in an exercise program that will benefit a healthy heart.

I also believe that all departments should understand how to handle and have the resources that they need to deal with an LODD. This includes seeing things from the family's perspective as well. Just because the firefighter is gone, doesn't mean that the family is.
By Lynn Brown / firerescue1.com


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