Friday, May 20th I attended a retired firefighters funeral. It was not my first, but I do hope it will be my last. Firefighter's funeral are hard to fathom. "When firefighters die, they are mourned with honor in accordance with an age old rich tradition. The dead man's rig leads the funeral cortege. His helmet rests beside the altar. Bagpipes play "Amazing Grace” or a lone bugler plays “Taps" As it is with soldiers: the folded flag, the crisp step of the honor guard, the stiff salutes are all present. At the conclusion of the ceremony the ringing of the bell which reflects respect and honor to those who gave their lives to their duty. The ringing of the bell represents the end of the emergency and the return to quarters, and is usually three rings of the bell, three times. Why do they ring the bell? Well, in the past, as fire fighters began their tour of duty, it was the bell that signaled the beginning of that day's shift. Throughout the day and night, each alarm was sounded by a bell, which summoned these brave souls to fight fires and to place their lives in jeopardy for the good of their fellow citizen. And when the fire was out and the alarm had come to an end, it was the bell that signaled to all the completion of that call. When a fire fighter had died in the line of duty, paying the supreme sacrifice, it was the mournful toll of the bell that solemnly announced a comrades passing. Long before the Internet was invented, or telephones and radios were used across our great nation, fire departments used the telegraph to communicate - using special codes to receive fire alarms from those once-familiar red fire alarm boxes which stood on practically every street corner of America. When a firefighter was killed, or in the language of the military and public safety: "fell", in the line of duty, the fire alarm office would tap out a special signal. This would be tapped out as five measured dashes - then a pause - then five measured dashes - then a pause - then five more measured dashes. This came to be called the Tolling of the Bell and was broadcast over the telegraph fire alarm circuits to all station houses in the vicinity. Heard outside on the streets - with the fire department's windows open, the resonating echo was similar to that of fire stations of old where fire alarm gongs sounded the locations of thousands of emergencies throughout the history of our growing country. This was done for the purpose of notification, and as a sign of honor and respect for all firefighters who had made the ultimate sacrifice in service to their communities. Such symbolism has been a time-honored fire service tradition and is repeated at each service of a fallen firefighter." At the church, when a fireman rang the bell....I thought I would die....it is such a soleful sound. At the end of the ringing of the bell the firefighters left the church and the family and friends all made their way to their cars. We then left the church and made our way to Randy's final resting place...firetrucks with firemen saluting blocked the streets to keep traffic from moving, firetrucks and vehicles from departments all over the south lead the way, Randy's truck was first, and when we entered the city of Lanett there were two ladder trucks on either side of the road with a huge American flag suspended between the two for us to pass under. At the cemetary the honor guard...some in uniform....some not....lined the way for the pall bearers to bring Randy to his final resting place. At the conclusion of the service....a lone bugler played Taps....and then....came the part that was the hardest for me to bear....there was a calling out for "Randy Brown"....it is done three times....and when it is evident that he is not returning to the station....he is pronounced 10-7. This code mean, "Out of Service." At that point the communication is dropped. At that moment I watched my precious cousin/sister, Amanda and her two children accept the realization that this was final. My heart shattered into a thousand pieces. Randy Brown was a much loved man by a great many people and that was evident today as we gathered together to honor this great man.
I am a woman who wears many hats and loves them all. I am a singer - I sing with the group Still Magnolias. I was part of the original First United Methodist Church Arbor Praise Team until we moved. After 24+ years of teaching English 11 and Spanish I - II at Benjamin Russell High School I decided to take a job closer to home. I now teach Spanish I & 2 at Randolph Co. High School and Wadley. I thought I was getting close to retirement and looking forward to it, but decided to move my cheese and try something different. I am a preacher's wife and a preacher myself. My husband Frank is the pastor at Rock Mills United Methodist Church and I am the pastor at Midway (Wedowee). It has made our conversations interesting, to say the least.