This morning, I got up early and rode my bike down to the Coming St. fire station, just near my house. This was the fire station that I initially thought 4 men were lost from, but as the information came out, we found out, thankfully, that it was only one man. When I arrived at 7:50, there were already about 70 people gathered on the street outside, and more were coming every minute.
The firemen were standing outside, milling around a memorial set up to honor their fallen brother. The mass of flowers was punctuated by the heartbreaking, carefully folded empty uniform. The flag flew at half mast.
Just after 9, we looked up as a helicopter slowly flew in our direction, marking the beginning of the procession. Several police cars, driven by policemen in black suits with black ties, drove by, followed by about 40 policemen and state troopers on motorcycles. Then the firetrucks came. There were about 100 in the procession, and about 300 vehicles total. The Charleston firetrucks came first, draped in black, and I noticed that many of the spectators and the men in the trucks were weeping. It is a difficult thing to watch a fireman cry. The firemen in the trucks and in the station saluted each other.
As the procession continued, I was shocked to see a firetruck from New Orleans drive by, then Maryland, and eventually several rescue vehicles all the way from Trenton, New Jersey. It was remarkable to see the solidarity of firemen from all over the country, and how this tragedy has united us all in grief.