Saturday, November 3, 2012

One of the Good Ones

I have always believed there is a rhythm and music to life:  crescendos and decrescendos, overtures and operas, tempo and melody.  It is how a person tells a joke, enters and room, and even marches through life.  There is a recognizable beat to us all, whether one is a whimsical little minuet or a grand romantic concerto.

The dynamics of songs are evident in the sheet music.  When I started this blog, I wanted the same obvious and immediate understanding.  The blog would be fun and airy.  Whimsical and light.  Nobody would ever confuse its tone with Tolstoy or Dostoevsky.

And yet there are moments.  Moments where I don't feel light or airy.  Times where I need to go somewhere else and write something different.  Today is such a day.

It began yesterday afternoon.  It was the usual response once word gets out.  A southside Chicago fireman had been killed.  Our phones were suddenly riddled with texts and phone calls.  Folks doing a headcount.  Making sure.  Details began emerging. 

Captain Herbert Johnson was a neighborhood guy, a Beverly man.  He came from a family of cops and firemen.  He had a wife and three children.  And he was looking forward to his son's upcoming football game with so much excitement that it was all he could talk about that day.  Over and over, people describe him the same way: 

A great guy. 

What a smile. 

What a laugh!  

One of the good ones.

He died battling a fire that destroyed the home where 8 children lived.  In watching the aftermath of Sandy this week, I was overcome by the image of dozens of other firemen wading through a flooded and burning Queens neighborhood to help as best they could.  In the middle of a hurricane.  With their engines, trucks and hoses unable to reach the fiery structures, they kept going. 

I could almost hear the blaring symphony as the winds raged and the downpour furiously pelted those rare individuals who stood in the middle of it all.   




Captain Herbert Johnson was like that.  The 32-year veteran headed to New York after 9/11 to help.  He attended the funerals of his New York brethren.  He made friends wherever he went, and in a neighborhood full of characters, he managed to stand out. 

Friends and family are asking for everyone to check their smoke alarms "in Herbie's honor" this month.  It is a way of making sure the man's song plays on, his legacy unforgotten.  So I share that message with you.  It is the least I can do, and also ask that you offer up a prayer for the family of Captain Herbert Johnson.     
 

32 comments:

  1. I am so sorry for his loss; sounded like a wonderful man with such a long career with the fire department. Will say a prayer for his family and friends.

    betty

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  2. They are a brave type of folk. I always think how frightening it must be for families of firefighters, how maybe mothers wish their children wouldn't follow the path, but I do realize that these people have something in them that I certainly lack...the hearts of heroes.

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    1. Gosh, Andrea - I worry all the time about my boys pursuing the careers of the neighborhood heroes. I want them stuffed behind a desk doing taxes, but I suppose they will ultimately do what's in their hearts, right? Me? I'm a chicken and hope that at least one of my sons has my DNA.

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  3. Oh, Marianne. Thank you for sharing a little bit of this extraordinary man with us. What a loss.

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  4. I stopped cold yesterday when the 10pm news came on. I calmed a bit when I learned it wasn't Joe. But grew melancholy when I realized the angst the family must have been feeling, and I remembered my doomsday, albeit very different. Beautiful words Mar.

    Tolstoy tonight it is.

    Megan

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    1. What a family this man had! It's like a who's who of public service. McNally's posted on their sign:

      "We're Speechless.

      Herbie Never Was."

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  5. Great write Marianne about this wonderful man and fireman who in giving his life for others gives real definition to the word hero. His family needs all the prayers that others can offer up. God Bless them all.
    SF

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    1. Thank you. I hate that this happens, but admire the devotion of the community in supporting the family. It's truly remarkable.

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  6. I'm so sorry to hear about this, Marianne. It's just heartbreaking. I'll be sending prayers for him and his loved ones...and for all the brave men and women who constantly risk their lives so that we may be safe. Heroes...all of them.

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  7. So sad. My prayers go out to the Captain's family and all Firemen. RIP Captain...you're a true hero.

    MBF

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    1. I can't help but smiling at all the pictures I keep seeing. The man was contagious.

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  8. Deep sadness .. 32 years? He must have been close to my age, how sad.

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    1. The funeral was like a hard blow to the gut. But there were a lot of really funny moments, too. He was quite the character.

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  9. Prayers sent up. Tomorrow, when my kids are up, they'll pray, too. I'd been missing you and your blog as I've been living in my bubble the past few weeks. What a sobering reminder of reality to come back to you and read this post. We are thankful every day for the folks who quietly risk their lives for us, just because. Thanks, Marianne. This is a great post, and we redheads are sorry to read about the loss of a great guy.

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    1. Thanks, Jennifer. I hope your bubble has been good to you. Sometimes we all need a bubble.

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  10. Today while working, I witnessed people in the community, with their kids, tying bows to all the trees and poles in our neighborhood. It was quite moving to see them all in the cold coming out to do this. Bless you all.

    MBF

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    1. You know as well as anyone, MBF, how this community is one in times of trouble. It is a truly unique attribute in today's world.

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  11. So sorry for the loss. His family, coworkers and your community are in my thoughts and prayers.

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  12. Praying for his family. Checking smoke alarms. Amazed by the generosity and bravery of people.

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    1. Thank you for checking your alarms! We must have you around for a long, long time!

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  13. That is so sad. Really puts things in perspective. Life is so precious.

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    1. Life is precious, but also meant to be enjoyed. The message of Herbie's funeral was to love it up and have fun. He was quite the guy.

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