Sunday, May 16, 2010

Emotional Roller coaster Day

As you get older and have even older friends and acquaintances, one of the sections of the newspaper you turn to is the obituary section. As my parents were well known in the Albany Jewish Community, I see many names that I recognize. Friends of theirs, former customers and distant relatives. I have seen many friends of mine in there as well because there are old fire fighters and bold fire fighters, but no old, bold fire fighters. A lot of the people I have worked with have died far too young. Most of them from some form of cancer or another. After all, back in the 1970's and 1980's it wasn't cool to wear those new fangled air packs. Today we know much different and these younger fire fighters seem to be just a little smarter about their health then we were at the time. After all, if you don't think you are invincible, why would you go running into a building when everyone else is running out?

This is not a blog about cancer or old age. This is about opening the paper today and reading the obituary of a former colleague and friend. Jerry died at the age of 44. He leaves a wife of twenty some odd years and young (teenage) children. Jerry worked for me at Engine 11 for several years and we, along with the rest of my crew, worked day and night and lived together for 24 hours at a time. You get to know someone when living and "putting your life on the line" with them. Or at least you thought you did. Since retiring from Albany in 1999, I have seen Jerry on and off when I stopped by the station for a cup of coffee and catch up on department news. From the time I met Jerry, he always had a smile on his face, always a joke (Usually at my expense) and always, always someone you could count on. If I was too deep into a building or somehow in harms way, Jerry was right there behind me or there to lend a very welcome hand. Jerry pulled his own weight. He was not the kind of guy, as a supervisor, you needed to keep on to get the work done.

When I read his name in the paper, I first thought, ok an older relative, but his picture was there as well and of course he was smiling. I was shocked. Jerry was always in good shape, fit and trim. He didn't drink, didn't smoke. My emotions were shock, disbelief and sadness. I couldn't believe it, Jerry is dead. The wake and the funeral will be held Monday and Tuesday respectively and I have to be out of town for business. Do I call his brother, stop over to see him? I also worked with his brother and cousins on the job. In fact his brother-in-law is also on the job. Know them all well. It is a family business.

I received a phone call from a colleague later in the day. Wanting to know if I had heard that Jerry had died. That's the way the fire service is, we are all family. He told me how Jerry died. That was when my emotions took a very unexpected turn, anger! Jerry died by his own hand, he hung himself in his garage and left a note for his wife and children telling them to call the police and not go in the garage. Of course, the story goes, they immediately went into the garage, who wouldn't. How could he do that to them. What evils were in his soul, torturing him to set his family up with a sight they will never forget? I am back to sorrow, but not for Jerry, but for his family. Not only have they lost a husband, father, brother, etc, but knowing that it might have been different. I morn for Jerry, but pray for his family. You think you know a guy.


  1. Hal, I am so sorry to hear about the death of your friend. Sounds like he was a very nice man. I feel sad for his wife and children also. In the end you never know where life will take you. Sounds like your friend was very troubled. Good memories of your friend will help you in your sorrow. It always works for me. Bonnie

  2. Hal
    I understand your frustration and emotional swings... I went to high school with Jerry and knew him well back then. Although we lost touch over the years the shock of hearing the news still hits you. Many of my fellow classmates couldn't believe the news. I too share the loss and pray for the family.

    Sean Mulvey

  3. Hal, where is engine 11 located?

  4. Kathryn,

    Engine 11 is located between Albany Med and St. Peters. Right next door to the new library.

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