It’s hard to believe that it’s been fifty years. Even harder to forget what a tragic event had taken place.
I remember what I was doing that day; helping one of my friends and his wife move. The weather was overcast, dreary, with a light misty rain during the morning hours. More like a typical early fall type day.
We had just left the Marlow Heights apartment location and I turned on my vhf receiver in my pickup. Traffic was light and an occasional exchange mentioned “accident scene”, “recovery efforts” and “clean up”. We were intrigued by what we heard, uncertain of what was happening and listening a bit more intently. We heard Squad 27 go in service, a garbled message from Chief 25 and some other spot transmissions which caused us to be more concerned about what was happening.
We were on Route 5 southbound heading toward Clinton and saw the Squad wagon from 27 come off Old Alexandria Ferry Road. Based on the short time from their going into service and the time we saw them; it was evident something had occurred, and it was significant and close to Clinton. I said, “let’s stop by the firehouse and see what is going on”.
Walking into the station was like stepping into a nightmare scene. Folks were consoling each other, weeping quietly and just looking lost in grief. We got the story from one of our members. There was an accident with Engine 251. It had lost control on the slick roadway and flipped over. The wagon was destroyed and several injured with two killed.
It was like a kick in your stomach, how, what, why? The typical questions just came blurting out, who was driving? Who was on the engine? How badly are the members injured? Who was it that died?
As more details were provided, the gravity of our loss and the damage to our Company was realized. There were seven on the unit, injuries to most were significant and would take some time for recovery.
The two lost were typical young and energetic guys. Both just starting out in life, falling in love, learning a career field, enjoying youth and the challenges of life. For them, their loved ones and friends, the future was done, the contributions they were to make was ended.
Are they missed, have we forgotten who they were, their impact on us? The answer is, we miss them daily, they will never be forgotten and for those who knew them, the sacrifice they made has given us a keen and very personal idea of the value of life.
Rest easy Friends, see you on the other side.
Jerry Spence, Member, Friend, Brother