Where to begin.
I have seen a lot in my over 20 years with the Fire Department. I’ve seen many deaths, I’ve seen many properties damaged or lost, I’ve seen people pushed to their limits with their emotions boiling over like toxic oil. I’ve seen cars become ugly pieces of twisted metal, I’ve seen small, calm creeks become raging rivers and sweep cars off roads, I’ve seen parents cry out their sorrows over their children, I’ve seen huge lines of cars stranded on snow filled roads, I’ve seen people beaten by loved ones, I’ve seen farmer’s crops destroyed by weather and fire. It can get you down after awhile.
Today, I saw something different. I saw a group of men that are used to dropping everything to go help others fighting for their home. I saw firefighters from other towns putting their lives on hold to come to our house. I saw vendors that are fighting to stay in business in a dog eat dog world come together to offer help.
I saw wives, and friends, and churches open their doors with food and shelter. I saw tears from hardened men, I saw hugs, I saw eyes looking at me like I had answers. I saw over 30 voicemails from fire departments , some from over 100 miles away offering help. I saw Facebook messages, I saw texts, I saw community members milling about just wanting to do something. Then I saw something even different.
I saw determination. I saw brotherhood.
I saw 29 of the best men I ever hope to meet putting together gear donated from 6 other departments. I saw men stocking trucks, one not even ours, determined if the pager went off we would respond. I saw firefighters saying to each other, “we will rebuild, we will be back, this won’t get us down”. I saw the whole department sit together, not wanting to leave. I heard the pagers go off, I saw this department respond like we always do…
I saw the Stockton Fire Department.
God bless each and everyone of you for your response, your help, your offers of gear, trucks, manpower, food, water, money and shelter. We are still here for you, we will always be here for you. We love what we do, and we do what we love. Good night. Tomorrow is a new day.
Fire Chief Randy Baysinger