Baumhower: Toledo’s broken heartWritten by Jeremy Baumhower | | email@example.com
Ever since the first blast hit and Northwest Ohio was dumped with almost two feet of snow, this winter has felt different. We have had incredibly mild winters in recent years, especially for where we live and our history. As the near-blizzard of 2014 hit, I would see family members of local firefighters and police officers post on social media how dangerous their loved ones’ jobs were getting.
While we were all tucked in warm and safe under a level 3 snow emergency, these men and women were in harm’s way. Police were out on the iciest of roads, rescuing drivers who never should have left their homes but needed to pick up one quick thing from the mall. Firefighters had their calls multiply for numerous reasons, from dealing with health-related injuries to electric heaters catching fire.
All this was going on as Facebook post after post showed water-related Mr. Wizard-like experiments demonstrating how cold it was. We were are all amazed, but few of us thought about those who have to use water in these conditions to save a life or a structure.
The events of Jan. 26 made this winter unbearable.
There is something about my West Side neighborhood that mass produces teachers, police officers and firefighters. One of my classmates lost her husband and the father of her children when TPD Detective Keith Dressel was killed in 2007. I remember how shocked I was when I recognized her face on TV, how that immediately punched me in the stomach and brought tears to my eyes. This had not taken place in New York or Chicago, but here in Toledo. I thought about her son and daughter and how their lives were forever changed, impacted by both their father’s heroism and a coward.
My Sunday was consumed with all the comforts everyone should experience: wine, a roaring fire and great television. My iPhone had numerous unanswered texts from those informing me of what happened, asking if I knew one of the firefighters who were lost. I had no idea of anything. I reached out to friends and family who love a firefighter. The first name I heard was Machcinski and my heart stopped. Everyone in Toledo knows a Machcinski; Steve and I went to Whitmer together.
The second name came with a story that made it worse. The other firefighter, James Dickman, was new to the Toledo Fire Department and a new father. How proud he must have felt, his life’s dream and hard work paying off. His future was as bright as the flames he would soon be facing, all to be extinguished in a moment.
I realized that new faces would join Danielle Dressel and her children. That two more families lost sons, brothers, husbands and, in Dickman’s case, fathers. That two men who left for work would never walk back through the door, all because they wanted to keep us safe, while providing for their loved ones.
Yesterday did not happen in Detroit nor Chicago; it happened on Magnolia Street. We are very fortunate with the number of fires and arsons in our area that this has not happened more often. Our luck ran out yesterday.
Will you please join me? As a sign of respect, love and gratitude for the two lives lost and those who survived and continue to keep us safe, I think we Toledoans should line the streets of the funeral processions and say our goodbyes and thanks to the fallen heroes and their families. Let’s show these grieving families these sacrifices will not be forgotten and these names will be remembered. Let’s show those who carry ladders and hoses or guns that we appreciate and love them for what they do. Let’s remind our children what a real superhero looks like and what the noblest jobs are.
It may be -50 degrees out when these fallen heroes drive by for the last time, but the weather should not stop you; it didn’t stop them when fighting this fire. It would once again remind the world the amount of heart we have and who we are. On our soon-to-be- coldest day in recent decades, let’s give warmth to those who will need it most.
If your heart is not broken or even heavy, then you must not be from the 419. We all love to complain how miserable this winter seems, but 99 percent of us have no idea how cold and dangerous it has been.
To the grieving families and brothers and sisters of the Toledo Fire Department: I am so incredibly sorry for your loss. These lives will not be forgotten.
Find Jeremy Baumhower on Facebook or Twitter @jeremytheproduc.