Redding Fire Department
May. 02, 2012 15:31
It was like a sea of blue. The uniformed men and women, young and old, milled about in the warm and jovial camaraderie of those joined by shared duty. They gathered this mid-Spring day in the parking lot and driveway of the firehouse in the small town of Redding, CT under a perfectly tranquil blue and cloudless day. With all of the firetrucks parked outside, the picnic tables aligned in rows inside, it was easy to think you'd happened into a weekend celebration. But there was a certain quiet to the tone. The black bunting that draped the various vehicles and the flag at half mast of course gave away the truth: this was a gathering, in time-honored tradition, to remember and bury a comrade who had died in the line of that shared duty.
Marshall Sanford was a past Chief and had been 1st Lt and driver of Engine #1 for the Redding Ridge Fire and EMS Company #1, a truck he had helped design, when, at age 67, he passed away from a heart attack while on call. He was revered in the community for his long-standing service and un-flagging dedication to the fire department.
His funeral was befitting of his long and distinguished service and it was quite something to be a part of -- I had been asked by the Department to document the events of the day. It was an experience that truly brought home the sense of tight-knit community that exists between firemen. It also stood as a reminder of the debt we owe to those in uniform for the risks they assume every day in their dedication to serving the greater good for communities large and small.
The pomp and circumstance was especially touching in such a small setting. The state provided the color guard as well as the bagpipe band. Other CT fire departments sent representatives. Two ladder trucks hoisted a giant American flag over the entrance to the small cemetery that resides immediately adjacent to the firehouse. And the bagpipers led the old antique firetruck carrying the American-flag draped coffin of Mr. Sanford to his final resting place.
And, true to the words of a fireman I spoke to early on, as people were still gathering: "Everyone is fine and pleasant now, but when the bagpiper plays "Amazing Grace", there won't be a dry eye anywhere."