SALISBURY, NC (WBTV) - Justin and Vic.
Around Salisbury you can just say those names and for most people there is instant recognition.
A young firefighter named Justin Monroe, 19, and a veteran firefighter named Vic Isler, 40, are bound together in eternity and in the minds of those who recall that awful day seven years ago.
As a veteran television reporter of more than twenty years, I can say that for me, it was the worst day on the job I've ever experienced, and yet, my complaints are nothing compared to the grieving of family members and the unique brotherhood that is the fire service.
You probably know the details, and honestly, I don't want to replay all those moments here. Suffice to say, Vic and Justin died while doing exactly what firefighters do, protecting lives and property. Captain Rick Barkley very nearly died, and lives everyday with pain, both physical and emotional, that he earned on that Friday morning.
I'll never forget seeing that fire grow over a period of minutes until it had consumed the buildings of Salisbury Millwork. A cold rain was falling, but the heat from that tremendous blaze pushed me back and caused my face to look sunburned.
And yet, as I backed up, the firefighters kept getting closer, fighting the fire and their own pain, to try and keep the flames from spreading. They knew what this fire had taken from them, and they were determined to reduce it to a wet pile of smoke and ashes.
That's the thing about the fire service. I know a little about it because my father was a Salisbury firefighter in the 1940's. That was way before my time, but when I was a kid he used to take me to the fire station near the Ketner Center just to look at the fire trucks.
My mom told me that when he was a firefighter, the city actually installed bells in our house. When there was a fire, those bells would ring, and my dad would call in and find out where he needed to go.
That's the key word in all of this. That's what firefighters do. They go. They go to the danger, they go inside the burning building, they go to the car crash. When called, they go.
Everything I've written to this point is just the lead in, here's the real pay off: let a firefighter know how much you appreciate them. Don't wait until there's a tragedy or near tragedy to understand and acknowledge that at their own great personal risk, they are willing to do whatever they can to save your property, your life, or the lives of those who hold most dear.
They're all around us. There are full time firefighters working for the municipalities, and many volunteers who balance their fire service with other full and part time jobs, and they are all over this county.
There were many tributes spoken publicly and through the media seven years ago. Disasters have a way of sharpening our focus on the things are most important.
If you're the praying kind, pray for firefighters, and anyone in public service. Pray for their families as well, and just let them know that you appreciate them.