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Firefighter heroism quotes from history

“Firemen are going to get killed. When they join the department they face that fact. When a man becomes a fireman his greatest act of bravery has been accomplished. What he does after that is all in the line of work. They were not thinking of getting killed when they went where death lurked. They went there to put the fire out, and got killed. Firefighters do not regard themselves as heroes because they do what the business requires.”
-- Chief Edward F. Croker, FDNY,
speaking upon the death of a deputy chief and
four firefighters in February of 1908



“I have no ambition in this world but one, and that is to be a firefighter The position may, in the eyes of some, appear to be a lowly one; but we who know the work which the firefighter has to do believe that his is a noble calling. There is an adage which says that, "Nothing can be destroyed except by fire." We strive to preserve from destruction the wealth of the world which is the product of the industry of men, necessary for the comfort of both the rich and the poor. We are defenders from fires of the art which has beautified the world, the product of the genius of men and the means of refinement of mankind. (But, above all; our proudest endeavor is to save lives of men-the work of God Himself. Under the impulse of such thoughts, the nobility of the occupation thrills us and stimulates us to deeds of daring, even at the supreme sacrifice. Such considerations may not strike the average mind, but they are sufficient to fill to the limit our ambition in life and to make us serve the general purpose of human society.”

-- Chief Edward F. Croker FDNY circa 1910



“Whatever the American's are proud of - whatever they consider to be particularly good, useful, brilliant, or characteristic of themselves or their climate, they designate, half in jest, though scarcely half in earnest, as an ‘institution.’ Thus the memory of George Washington... is an institution; the Falls of Niagara are an institution; the Plymouth Rock, on which the Pilgrim Fathers first set foot, is an institution...; ‘Sweet potatoes’ are an institution, and Pumpkin (or Punkin) pie is an institution; ...squash is an institution; Bunker Hill is an institution; and the firemen of New York are a great institution.”

-- Life and Liberty in America by Charles Mackay, published 1850



“If Prometheus was worthy of the wrath of heaven for kindling the first fire upon earth, how ought all the gods honor the men who make it their professional business to put it out?”

-- John Godfrey Saxe, (American journalist, poet, and lecturer) circa 1850


When fire is cried and danger is neigh,
‘God and the firemen’ is the people's cry;
But when 'tis out. and all things righted,
God is forgotten and the firemen slighted.
-- printed in "The Fireman's Journal" October 18, 1879.


ODE TO OUR FIREMEN
By Frederic G. W. Fenn

All honor to the red-clad heroes; the boys who ran the machine
Over the highway to rescue, quick to danger's scene;
Where angry flames devour the poor man's earthly store,
Bidding to all a defiance, with its wild and sullen roar,

Tell me not of the gallants who wear the helmets bright,
Who boast of their deeds of slaughter in some degrading fight;
But sound aloud the praises, and give the victor-crown
To our noble-hearted Firemen, who fear not danger's frown.

They of many a conflict, with the haughty demon of flame,
With the rising sun of the morning, their gallant deeds proclaim.
The signal that strikes terror, to them is known full well;
Forth to do and dare they spring at the tap of the bell.

Some one's home is falling in the midnight solemn hour;
Now the heroic legion spring forth to show their power.
Listen to the rumble, as they clatter over the way;
There's hope in the sound as they speed on
In determined and gallant array.

Soon the fiery days will he over; the machine will be of the past,
And over the forms of our heroes the mantle of age will be cast,
And ere long they'll tread to the portals, and view the setting sun,
Then fall; arrayed in the glories of the gallant deeds they've done.

Grand honor! to such brave brothers; let the shout sweep to the sky.
Weave garlands round their memories as the ages swiftly fly,
Over each Fireman's hallowed grave write with honor's pen:
Here lieth one who delighted to aid his fellow men.
-- Printed in The National Fireman's Journal February 9, 1878.


THE MARTYRED FIREMAN
By Frank J. Ottarson

Fold gently o'er his silent breast
The honored badge he wore in death,
And reverent lay to peaceful rest --
With tearful eyes and bated breath --
The hero who nor shrunk nor quailed
When bravest hearts from terror failed,
When "Backward!" from the tottering wall --
"Back for your lives !" was cried by all.
But he nor feared, nor saw, nor heard,
He would not hear the backward word;
The path of duty lay before;
The fireman's badge he proudly wore
Would blush for shame if one should say
He shrank from danger. "Clear the way!"
Up to the front the hero came
To battle face to face with flame.
One thought he gave to hearts at home,
And eyes that laughed to see him come;
But "Duty, duty !" was the cry --
'Twas duty now to do or die,
He dashed the unbidden tear away,
And foremost led the dangerous fray;
The high wall tottered all aflame:
Then, like an avalanche, it came
Down thundering to the quaking ground,
And built the martyr's funeral mound
A shriek of horror! Like a flash
To work his brave companions dash;
With blistering hands they tear the pile --
Their hushed hearts beating low the while --
And soon with streaming eyes they bear
The martyr to the cool night air
Too late! The fatal work is done!
His crown of fame is dearly won;
Crushed by the cruel wall he lies,
Stern duty's latest sacrifice.

The victim of the battle's strife
Lives in our hearts a second life;
But who the unarmed hero knows,
Who, like this fireman, graveward goes
Contented, in a peaceful sphere --
To live without reproach or fear,
To do all that becomes a man,
And fill the grand though humble plan
By Heaven ordained? Shalt we forget
The hero whose bruised body yet
Seems quick with life? Let banners wave
O'er martyrs in a warrior's grave;
Here needs no muffled drum nor crepe;
Our very hearts to-day we drape
With sorrow, and sit down to mourn
The hero who will ne'er return.
Lay him to rest; his work is o'er;
Nor sins nor sorrows vex him more;
He filled the Maker's grandest plan,
And when be died he died for man,

-- printed in "The Fireman's Journal" April 2, 1881.


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