GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — At 5:30 Tuesday morning, eight Grand Rapids firefighters gathered at their department’s training center for a 14-hour trip to honor two men they never met in person.
But they considered them brothers.
“You hope this never happens. You don’t keep it in your mind. You just know it goes with the job. It can happen. And you do your best every day,” said Joe Dubay, president of Grand Rapids Firefighters Local 366, and one of the firefighters making the trip to Boston.
Boston Fire Department Lt. Edward Walsh and firefighter Michael Kennedy died last Wednesday after they were trapped while battling a fire in a four-story brownstone in Boston’s Back Bay neighborhood.
For most people, the deaths don’t come as a surprise.
Events like 9/11, where 343 firefighters died, prove that firefighting is a dangerous job. Yet it’s for that reason that there is a unique bond within the firefighter community.
It’s a family, regardless of borders or distance.
“You live a third of your life with them at the engine house,” DuBay said. “You’re there 24 hours. So it’s really important that we go out and show our support.”
So the eight Grand Rapids firefighters set off on their 835-mile journey.
Boston will welcome them as well. According to the Boston Globe, several hotels are offering free rooms for visiting firefighters.
The Grand Rapids group will be joined by firefighters from across the country, and as far away as Australia.
And they’ll try to push to the back of their minds that last week it happened in Boston, but next week it could happen anywhere.
Even Grand Rapids.
And the next time a Grand Rapids firefighter crawls down a smoke-blinded hallway, keeping close to the floor because the heat above could melt their helmet in an instant, they’ll know there are thousands of brothers and sisters who have their backs.
“I would hope if this happened here, that other firefighters would come and show my family the same support we’re going to show theirs,” DuBay said.