Reflecting on an empty table

Published 6:21 pm Monday, April 16, 2018

As emergency service personnel from throughout Beaufort County gathered at BCCC during Saturday’s Fire and EMS Associations Awards Banquet, one somber piece of décor stood out at the front of the room: an empty table, set for one.

This empty table, standing by itself, served throughout the program as a poignant reminder of those who are no longer with us.

It was set for the missing, in memory of the fallen firefighters and emergency workers, and each item on the table holds a special significance.

  • The white tablecloth represents the purity of their intent, as they responded to the call each time the tones sounded.
  • The red rose stands for those who made the ultimate sacrifice so that others could live.
  • The white rose is for those still with us who have witnessed and experienced tragedy and devastation firsthand.
  • A slice of lemon reminds us of their bitter fate.
  • Salt symbolizes the tears shed by their families and loved ones.
  • A candle is a beacon of light, a symbol of their memories.
  • An inverted glass reminds us that we cannot toast with them.
  • An empty chair tells us that they are not here, but that we have not forgotten them.

According to the U.S. Fire Administration, 93 firefighters died nationwide in the line of duty during 2017. To date in 2018, 26 line-of-duty fatalities have been reported so far. According to EMS1, 11 EMS technicians throughout the country passed in the line of duty last year.

Each time these men and women set out to answer a call, the danger to their health and safety is very real. Each situation can present unique dangers and the circumstances can change rapidly. Although standardized protocols and training can reduce these risks, the danger can never be eliminated entirely.

In most cases, the firefighters who give of their time to protect our homes and businesses are doing so on a volunteer basis, out of a simple love for their community and their neighbors. For those who are paid, the demands are no less.

As we rest comfortably in the knowledge that these dedicated public servants are protecting our health and homes around the clock, let us also remember the sacrifices they make in doing so.