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Guest column/Thanks to firefighters, others who keep city safe

March 11, 2012
By SANDI RUE , The Herald-Star

This is a copy of remarks that I made before City Council, and I wanted all of our city firefighters to be able to read what I said in honor of their dedication to the citizens of Steubenville that evening:

I stand before you tonight as a proud resident of the city of Steubenville and to let this council know that I feel we have one of the best fire departments this side of the Ohio River. Yes, I know that the police department was there as well, but I want to give a special thank you to the firefighters tonight. On the evening of Jan. 31, a very well-respected and much-loved young man lost his life in a fire at his home on Virginia Avenue. I am not here to dwell on that tragedy, but instead I am here to say to our city firefighters that you are an incredible group of men and women, and I love and respect each of you. I don't know all of your names, but after that I night, I feel that I know your hearts. I had the privilege of thanking some of you privately (giving a few hugs and handshakes in the process) and now I want to thank the entire department publicly.

I watched as big strong men who looked like they could easily play on the offensive or defensive line for the Pittsburgh Steelers do their jobs with tears in their eyes because the outcome of this fire was not as they had hoped for - they came to perform their job and put out a fire, but I know they came hoping and praying that no one was in the house at the time of the fire. Unfortunately, a young life was cut short far too soon according to our estimation, but those matters are in the hands of our lord and savior and he makes no mistakes.

The family and friends of Lee West will carry that loss with us each and every day of our lives, but if anything good could be found in this tragedy, it would be the fact that when the alarm was sounded, the firefighters and the paramedics didn't stop to ask if they were going to respond to a call from a white family or a black family, from a rich family or a poor family, from a young person or an old person or if the call came from a man or a woman. They just did their job efficiently with a great deal of compassion and responded as they have been trained to do. I will always remember a cold day on Jan. 6, 1993, when my brother Julius Caesar Thorn lost his life in a fire on Garrett Avenue. I don't remember the name of the firefighter who comforted me that day, but I do remember that genuine compassion that was shown to me and to my family in the wake of our family tragedy. And so I stand here tonight simply to say thank you from the bottom of my heart for the job that you do. Whenever I pass by a fire station and I see you guys out front I plan to honk my horn as a tribute to the work that you do in our city, I know that when that alarm sounds you will be ready, willing and able to face the task at hand. I would love to always find you hanging around the fire station, but if you're not there when I pass by, please know that I will be praying for your safety as you perform one of the most dangerous jobs in the world.

Again I say thank you to the firefighters and paramedics of the city of Steubenville for keeping my city safe, and may God continue to bless you and keep you in his care.

(Rue is a resident of Steubenville.)

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