Tuesday, February 6, 2018

First responder love

QUINCY FIRE DEPARTMENT Lt. Jack Ray is getting a lot of love after a Super Bowl commercial featured him Sunday. Lt. Ray helped save the life of a woman in Quincy four years ago. He's a hero. He deserves to be lauded.

There's a lot more to this story. I don't know Lt. Ray that well but had some encounters with him when I worked at The Whig. I found him to be respectful, humble and deflecting of praise and credit.

In truth, many of our brave firefighters put their lives on the line, and so have our police officers. One of my best friends, a police officer, climbed a ladder a few years ago and got a woman from a burning building. He didn't get a lot of press coverage because it was in the middle of the night and there were no dramatic photos or video. He didn't want the coverage, anyway.

Lt. Ray rescued the woman from a house fire near Seventh and State. Ironically, in October of 2009, Ray was again in the spotlight. It was one of the saddest and most gut-wrenching stories I ever covered - a fatal house fire in the large apartment building on the northwest corner of Seventh and State.

I drive by there all the time and think of Jack and his fellow firefighters. A man set fire to a couch on the second floor, it spread through the building, and three people perished. It was the middle of the night, the building was out of code, and Jack stepped off a second-story roof and fell to the street.

He barely missed landing on electrical wires and he suffered numerous broken bones and injuries. He testified at the trial of the man accused of setting the fire.

During the trial, a woman who lived across the street took the stand for the defense. She tried to discredit the firefighters and the police officers who arrived at the fully-engulfed building. It was obvious she didn't like authority. I found her testimony untruthful and angry. So did the jury - the man accused of setting the fire was convicted of murder.

Jack eventually healed up, and three years later climbed up a ladder to another burning buildinghalf a block away and helped a woman escape. Jack didn't think twice about it - like most of his fellow firefighters, he used his training and expertise to act.

And he saved the life of a woman, a grateful woman, and it's an amazing story, even four years later.

So here's to Lt. Ray, and to all of our first responders. They are appreciated, and it's great to see them recognized by Verizon on national television.

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