By Stephen Vance, Editor
If you’ve ever been in a room full of firefighters when their pagers start beeping, you can really appreciate the dedication and focus required by members of our volunteer fire department.
Recently at a gathering at Meaford Hall to honour Meaford firefighters who had participated in the dousing of the Reeds restaurant fire of 2009, the galleries of the hall were filled with family members of our firefighters, local politicians, and various other residents who had turned out to see these brave and dedicated individuals honoured.
The sounds of conversation and children playing filled the galleries, and just as Fire Chief Mike Molloy was calling the attention of those in attendance to the podium where he was to begin the honouring ceremony, the sound of pagers cut through the air.
While those of us regular folks were darting our eyes around the room to locate the source of the interruption, a dozen firefighters in full dress uniform immediately filed out of the room.
There were no hugs and goodbyes with their spouses and children – there was no time for that. Somewhere in our municipality a fire had broken out, and their assistance was required. Their training and instinct saw them drop everything so they could instantly respond to the call, to their duty.
It mattered not that it was the Saturday of the Family Day long-weekend. The framed certificates that were to be presented to these fine individuals didn’t matter at that moment either. What mattered was that someone needed help, and these members of our community had pledged to be there for any of us in a time of need.
And while the ceremony was interrupted – and was in fact delayed for several minutes before resuming with the spouses of those firefighters standing in to accept the honours on behalf of their firefighting mates, one couldn’t help but think of all of the times that these men had been in the middle of a social gathering, or a simple breakfast with the family when they heard those pagers go off.
How many Christmas dinners, how many birthday parties for the little ones, how many relaxing days in the back yard had been interrupted so that our community could be protected?
They are on call for us. They respond when we have a need. And they do so without complaint, and without seeking recognition. They do so selflessly, and they do so knowing that every call brings with it potential danger for themselves personally. They fill a role that most of us would never want to fill ourselves.
Most of us treasure our downtime. Most of us enjoy our weekends and time away from work. For our firefighters though, the call could come at any time. While they are at their full-time jobs, or while snowshoeing with the family, we know that we can count on them.
Bruce-Grey-Owen Sound MPP Bill Walker who was in attendance at the honouring ceremony that day said it best when he called upon everyone within earshot to take every opportunity to thank our firefighters for taking on the responsibility, and giving up a part of their lives in order to protect the rest of us.
While it may seem a small gesture, I suspect that every firefighter would treasure a simple thank you from a resident while standing in line at the grocery store checkout even more than a certificate or a pin.
Thank a firefighter the next chance you get. You never know when that call they receive will be to come and help you.