Dear Friend of the LAFD:
I wanted to take a moment, in spirit of the season - to share a personal message.
While trying - or should I say struggling - to develop a theme for saying "thanks" to the thousands of weekly media and public visitors to our LAFD News & Information web log, our office phone rang.
It was Joyce.
Joyce has been an active Los Angeles Fire Department supporter for many years, and quite frankly, her first question caught me off guard. "Are you planning on shaving your head in March" she asked.
Before I could offer an upbeat answer to that seemingly inane question, she blurted out... "How is Firefighter Kelly Taggart's boy?"
As I stumbled for words, Joyce could immediately sense the answer. Before I could utter a meaningful sound, she said in a comforting tone "We are all so very sorry".
The phone fell awkwardly silent as countless images of the recent past raced through my mind. In each of the cascading images, a crowd had gathered for a purpose. In each of those memories was a clear sense that those in LAFD uniform were never alone.
As Joyce and I carried on, it became apparent to me that often the shortest and simplest of words say the most of all. In this case, it was "we". Yes, as Los Angeles Firefighters we are blessed to never walk alone.
Her seemingly bizarre question about the shaving of heads of course, was related to our annual St. Baldrick's fundraiser for children with cancer. You know... when we shave our heads to help "those" kids, the one's that belong to someone else, in another community, and for some, seemingly in a different world.
But that's not always the case.
When John Taggart, the young son of Firefighter Kelly Taggart commenced his battle with neuroblastoma, countless members of the community, including Joyce came forward to help.
In fact, some very well known people showed up without a scintilla of interest in publicity. Like the others, they were simply there to help - because they cared.
How heartening it was to see the generous outpouring of help. How touching it was to read the strong words of support from those who checked in more than 70,000 times on-line to help John and his family through difficult times.
You see, when we take off our uniforms and go home to our families, we're not too different from your other friends and neighbors.
During John's battle, our Fire Department family and supporters learned many lessons. Including how much one little boy enjoyed Halloween, and especially his fondness of Superman.
Oh, if only a real-life Firefighter could be so brave.
We also learned of a strong family and the ties that bind them. In viewing photos and reading the kind words of so many, we gained insight regarding the wonderful doctors, nurses and support staff at Children's Hospital of Orange County, of the "Angel Network" of Cancer Warriors, and the phenomenal local volunteers of the Make-A-Wish-Foundation. The list could go on, but would not be complete without also mentioning the fabulous faith community that then as now hold the Taggart family close.
And so the purpose of this message is to say thank you for something truly tangible, and something that was both recent and painful, and also for two things that will always remain:
Our need to have you in our lives, and our need to say thank you for always being there.
Whether actively supporting our widows and orphans, or helping win our recent conquest to construct a permanent memorial to our fallen colleagues, we have always been comforted by your presence and support, and for that we will always be grateful.
In closing, I wanted to share the story of John's passing to the many of you, like Joyce, who have been keeping the Taggart family in their prayers. While next years St. Baldrick's event will go on, it was with a very heavy heart that I told Joyce one superhero would be missing.
Farewell Superman.. and Thank You!
Public Service Officer
Los Angeles Fire Department