What is your greatest memory?

CarolinaFireJournal - By Dedra Cline
By Dedra Cline
10/22/2013 -

This past summer we spent several weeks at fire conferences, which is pretty much the norm for us. The usual topic of conversation with any group of firefighters is that most “memorable” fire. And as always, the spouses sit with attentive ears, listening as if they are hearing the story for the first time. Not only did I see the attentiveness but I saw the expressions on their faces. Those expressions told a story of how proud they were of their firefighter and they would do anything for their firefighter.


Just from the memories shared here, you can see that the firefighters are not the only ones with memories. The families share stories and can relate just as the firefighters can with each other.

Seeing those expressions I became interested to hear their greatest memory. The following are a few stories related to me.


Vanessa Sasser’s husband is with the Chapel Hill Fire Department and Western Wake Fire Rescue in North Carolina. Vanessa’s story is about the show of brotherhood, not just by the members of the fire service, but of the families involved.

“I’m stubborn and hard headed, probably a good reason I married a fire fighter,’ said Sasser. “I have always hated going to the doctor, but was forced to when I had pains in my stomach like someone had stabbed me and was slowly turning the knife. The doctor made me get a CAT scan right away, and as David (her husband) and I were cancelling our burgers and beer plans we had with friends that night, we get a call. The on call doctor at my office had received the test results before we did, and told me I needed an appendectomy right then.

“So, we make phone calls, make arrangements, and next thing I know I’m being wheeled off to surgery. When I wake up, I was pretty positive a nurse was putting a light post down my throat, but it turns out it was a feeding tube. While in surgery, they found they not only needed to remove my appendix, but part of my intestines as well. I couldn’t eat or drink anything but ice chips, and those were limited.

“When David wasn’t working at one of his two stations, he was by my side, and eventually sleeping on a cot the nurses brought in for him. I woke up one day to find a group of men standing at my bed along with David. They were all on his crew that night, and they all came to see me and make me laugh. There was a fire station right next to the hospital that David had never worked at, but they welcomed David with open arms and fed him while he was waiting for me to recover.

“Wives of other firefighters were traveling to our house to let our dogs out; firefighters I barely knew were visiting me in the hospital with gifts to keep me entertained. Physically it was the worst week of my life, but I learned a lot. I have an amazing husband, who sticks by my side through thick and thin. His profession employs the most devoted and family driven people I have ever met. The word “Brotherhood” has no bounds when it comes to another firefighter or their family. I am beyond proud and grateful to be a fire fighters wife, and hope I one day get to return the kindness and love that was bestowed upon me.”

God and Family

The next memory is from Debbie Collins. Debbie’s husband is with Horry County Fire and Rescue in South Carolina. Her story speaks to the respect that the men and woman in the fire service have for the property and life of others.

“There are many memorable moments of being a fireman’s wife that will stay with me forever,” says Debbie. “About eight years ago I experienced the moment I realized that my husband truly had the heart of a fireman and I finally understood what that meant. He called me one night while on shift and told me he had been to a disturbing call where a 18 month old little boy fell off a very high balcony at the beach. Several of his fellow firemen had gone home because of how traumatic it was.

“At this time in our life, we had two small sons. One was 18 months old and the other was four years old. He didn’t come home that night. He didn’t cry or choke up on the phone. He just kept telling me that he wanted to hold his boys and for me to watch out for them.

“The next morning he came home and the boys ran to him screaming and laughing, like they always did. He held them extra tight! He still did not cry. Over the next few hours, he kept going to the boys and kissing and hugging them but still not crying or opening up about what he saw. Lunch time came and I was preparing for the family when I heard him in our room. I walked in our bedroom and my strong husband and the father of my boys was sobbing and praying loudly.

“He was praying for the family and the loss they had suffered. He was calling out to God for strength for the family and for himself. I went over to him and just started praying with him. This man, who was a stranger to this family, had a true and genuine love for a child he had never known. He grieved for the mother’s kisses that this child would never feel on his cheeks and for the dad’s shoulders that would never again carry this baby.

“A true fireman/firewoman has love and compassion for their families and the families they serve. They are able to be strong and insure that they do their best to salvage whatever possible but they do not forget or overlook that this is someone else’s life or property. This one moment has stuck with me and given me a greater respect for all servicemen and women!”


This memory is from Sherry Tilley. Sherry’s husband is with Eden Fire Department in North Carolina. Sherry’s memory is of how a call not only affects those in need, but also affects the community.

“My moment would have to be several years ago,” said Sherry. “My husband went to a house fire where four people were trapped inside. One elderly lady, her daughter and two young girls. The girls mom was not at home. When my husband came home, he said three had died, but he said one little girl still had a heartbeat as he rushed her to an ambulance. We found out later that the girl died at the hospital.

“My husband was so upset. I had taught the little girl the year before in first grade, so I was upset too. My school planted trees outside the school in their memory. My husband still remembers that day and so do I, as I had to comfort him because this was so terrible! I am a fireman’s wife and my job is to be there for my husband when he needs support!”

Those Three Little Words

The story next being told is from Carol Greene. Carol’s husband is with Henrietta Fire Department in New York. Carol’s story is one of many emotions. One you have heard from me before ... make “I love you” the last thing your firefighter hears when going to the job. .

“It’s hard to pin point one moment because there are so many that make up being a fire fighter’s wife,” said Carol. “There are the good moments but the ones that stick out are the ones that I’ve seen that have brought the brother/sisterhood of the fire service together.

“Christmas Eve of 2012 we lost two young men that responded to a house fire, only to be shot and killed by a man that had hate and revenge in his heart. Our community was stunned and time stood still for quite some time. Our district did two fill-ins for the West Webster Fire Dept. as the world came and paid respect to their brothers.

“I heard many stories of Tomasz and Chip and gave out endless hugs as well as shared tears. At the end of the day I stood shoulder to shoulder with many of our area’s finest and saluted as the body of young Tomasz Kaczowka passed by his department on the way back to the funeral home. In the days to follow I found out that the coward that killed our brothers, had a sister who had just moved in to the Henrietta Fire Department’s area. That could have just as easily been in our fire district as well as my own husband that could have been in the line of fire.

“I sat in the chair and felt very blessed that I can still kiss my sweetheart each day and night. And I never take those three words for granted. They take on a deeper feeling each time I say them to him. “I love you” will always be the last words he will hear me say when ever the tones drop and he walks out the door to another call.”

Firefighter Family

This memory is from Sarah Chatham. Sara’s husband is retired from North Carolina Office of the State Fire Marshal where he worked as a Fire and Rescue Training Specialist. Sara’s memory is of family being involved with the traveling.

“My best memories are being able to travel all over North Carolina for many years going to rescue competitions, mountain rescue, live fire burns and many other special schools,” recalls Sara. “I really enjoyed going with Greg and taking the twins to watch the fire and rescue training. The people in the fire and rescue services have made the experiences most memorable.”

“Through the years the kids and I have traveled with our firefighter. Having the opportunity to visit places that we most likely would not normally have visited. I am grateful for the relationships that my daughter and son have built with other firefighter families. They have “family” in just about any state they would decide to settle in as adults.

“Just from the memories shared here, you can see that the firefighters are not the only ones with memories. The families share stories and can relate just as the firefighters can with each other.

“We are all proud of the men we are married to and even prouder the man our husband has become.”

Dedra Cline welcomes your questions and comments. She can be reached at [email protected].
Comments & Ratings

  10/29/2013 4:30:14 PM
Lisa Evans 

New Comment 
Congrats to you.....you did a great job writing this article....all the ladies you printed did a great job for you.....just got the magazine from Randy and enjoyed it...

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