Escorting a Chicago Fireman Home – Respect for One Who Fell for Us

Captain Herbie Johnson died a line-of-duty death when he was engulfed in a flash fire in the attic of a burning house on the South Side last week.

No outpouring of grief can offset the tragic loss of a man who so willingly gives it all each and every time he answers a call, and last week’s fire was Captain Johnson’s final call.  He is sorely missed by his family, by his friends, by his brotherhood and sisterhood of firemen, and indeed by each and every one of us in the communities of Chicago who are priviledged to have been protected by his extraordinary dedication and professionalism.  He was, after all, a fireman.

As a fireman, Johnson deserved to be taken home by those who continue to live and work to honor and remember him.  In the fine tradition of the Chicago Fire Department, his brothers and sisters did exactly that.  They gathered in their best dress for his funeral, paid their respects, and heard the fire bell ring 3-3-5 to signify Johnson’s return home to quarters having given his life in the line of duty.  Then they escorted his Chicago flag-draped casket to its final resting spot.  The processions to and from St. Rita of Cascia Shrine Chapel were filled with outpourings of pride and respect.  Under dark, overcast skies there were the mournful sounds of bagpipes and the somber beat of drums; there were the gathered fire equipment, purple bunting and flowers; there were the uniformed personnel standing at attention; there were white-gloved salutes; there was the Mayor; there were fellow Chicagoans; there were firemen, policemen, first responders, and mere mortals who traveled from places near and far; and there were words…words of sorrow, of respect, and of joy for simply having shared time on earth with him.

As we mourn the loss of one of the best among us – who lived and worked to make our community the safest it can be – we celebrate those who live by his memory and example.