January 26, 2007
I was awakened at about 530 in the morning by my father. It was a school day so I assumed it was the usual wakeup signaling the time to drag myself out of bed and get ready for another day. As I closed my eyes in an attempt to catch a few minutes of extra sleep and delay the inevitable, another sharp shake hit me and my dads voice filled the room “Patrick. Get Up. Listen To Me.” I sat straight up and stared into his eyes. He was fully dressed in winter weather clothing (he still had his gloves on inside). The fire radio scanner was plugged into headphones that were stuck in his ears. He looked exhausted.
“What’s Wrong Dad?” I asked.
I’ll never forget his words: “Highway 58 Lost A Firefighter In A Fire Last Night. I’ve Been Out All Night And I’m About To Leave Again. I Thought You Should Know.”
The conversation that followed was mostly me begging him not to make me go to school and his promptly denying my request. As soon as I left school that day I did not return until the following week (one of the only times in my entire life I’ve missed school).
I remember walking in the firehouse. I remember there being so many people there you couldn’t hardly move. People crying, people standing in corners, silent as the night sky. I saw the Chief fighting tears while fearlessly doing what he does best: making sure people are on task. Getting things done. One of the assistant chiefs passed me in the hallway and said “I’m glad you’re here”. There were firemen from many different departments there and I would later find out that Highway 58 Volunteer Fire Department did not respond to a single call in their district for 4 days, due to the number of outside companies covering the territory (all 112 square miles of it).
Over the next few days, I saw the brotherhood come together. Firemen from different departments from two different states standing side by side responding to emergency calls in honor of a fallen brother.
The funeral was on a Monday. It was bright, sunny, and about 30 degrees with a wind chill in the teens. I had my camera (as usual) and myself and another photographer had teamed up to photograph the funeral. I sat quietly in the church, speaking only to say hello to those I knew who were in attendance.
That’s when I saw it.
The projectors in the church were playing a slideshow of photos of the fallen hero. It scrolled through pausing at each slide to reflect on a memory. The memory that hit me was a photo of me and him in the bucket of an aerial ladder
at a training exercise a couple years prior. He had offered to take me up for a ride in the ladder so I could get some overhead photos of the training ground. While we were up
there, he said “Look this way, it’s time for me to take your picture for a change.” He held out his hand and snapped a picture of the two of us, a picture that until that moment I had not seen. I lost it, but my dad was right there with me and helped me pull myself back together long enough to finish the service.
As the ceremony was over, we proceeded outside. Hundreds of firefighters lined the walkway, driveway, and yard of the church. The procession of emergency vehicles alone was over 1 mile long with hundreds of passenger cars behind that. Another moment of time that
is frozen in my mind: The doors of the church opened and through the silence of the crowd the Chiefs voice rang out “Highway 58 Fire Department, ATTENTION!” The crowd of firefighters snapped to attention and the midday silence was deafening. Firefighters carried the flag draped casket outside and loaded it onto the back of engine 1642… his engine. Two firefighters rode atop the engine dressed in full turnouts as the procession proceeded down Highway 58. After the casket passed underneath the American Flag hung between the
tips of Fort Oglethrope Ladder 1 and Catoosa County Ladder 1, the engine turned and made one last drive through the empty apparatus bay at Highway 58 VFD Station 2 before proceeding to the cemetery. At the gravesite, the cold wind did not ease the pain of the several hundred firefighters and family members in attendance. The owner of the local Firehouse Subs franchise, who happened to be a good friend of mine, offered me free lunch if I let him borrow a winter hat to cover his bald head, which was shining in the midday sun.
In one final pass of the casket, attendees of the funeral had the chance to pay their respects to the family. I walked past and the widow of the fallen firefighter greeted me with a hug. “He loved your photos” she said “the first thing he did when he got home from a fire was check your website for pictures. He was a big fan of yours and wanted to see you succeed in the fire service.”
Several years down the road, I joined this department as a volunteer. I would later find out that there were more similarities between he and I than just a burning love for the fire service. My instructor in firefighter 1 class enlightened me to the fact that I sat in the same seat in class as he did (unknowingly). He and I also won the same awards (Rookie of the Year and Firefighter of the Year). And we were both fans and followers of the same fire companies in the “famous big city departments”. There have been many times where I have been told “thats exactly what he would have said”. I could not think of a greater honor than being compared to someone who was willing to lay down his life in an attempt to save others.
I will close this remembrance article with a quoted phrase. It is a phrase that the fallen firefighter coined, and had said so many times it was eventually adopted as the motto of the Highway 58 Volunteer Fire Department:
“GO HOME, WE’VE GOT IT!”
Go home, and may you rest in peace. We’ve got it from here and we will never forget you…
FIREFIGHTER SHANE DAUGHTEE #16552
HIGHWAY 58 VOLUNTEER FIRE DEPARTMENT – STATION 2
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