For posterity: What shots like these are about

Monday, July 8, 2024
Reelsville volunteer firefighters (from left) Larry Ellis, Dorman Owen, Roy Haddon and Don Stevenson are gathered together in an undated photo.
Courtesy photo

ďAs long as you speak my name, I shall live forever.Ē - African proverb

Recently, after a gathering at which Roy Haddon and John Wells were recognized for their many years of service, Asst. Chief John McPherson and I had a back-and-forth via Facebook chat about photos. I wanted some older ones to go with my story.

John got me the one above with Roy, and there are few of Wells from Reelsville Fire. Wells has been with us for a decade, while Haddonís six decades have been all the way.

I can gander that photos of Wells do exist from his days at Acton and Perry Township (both now part of Indianapolis Fire). Us not being sure, however, got me thinking.

Banner Graphic/BRAND SELVIA

In his book ďThe Professional Volunteer Fire Department,Ē Tom Merrill, a 30-year veteran of the Snyder Fire Department in New York, talks about how fire departments can preserve their history. He emphasizes that doing so promotes pride - or call it buy-in - from their members. This in turn shows how a department has gradually evolved.

ďBy understanding and appreciating the extraordinary history and strong heritage associated with both the fire service and our individual fire departments,Ē Merrill says, ďwe not only honor the memories, contributions, lessons, and sacrifices of those who have come before us, but also promote strong house pride throughout the ranks.Ē

Merrill also stipulates that the little things matter, most certainly all of the details. As someone who tells stories for a living, putting it way too simplistically, I would agree.

After Johnny Mac and Iís conversation, I considered how Merrillís sentiments can relate to my work as a reporter. Specifically, what all these fire photos are about.

Being the Bannerís de facto fire and wreck guy, Iíve taken pride in being in the action, to manyís appreciation and the chagrin of some. The shots Iíve gotten should speak to that. I am about showing up, and knowing it as a duty to them and our community.

Banner Graphic/BRAND SELVIA

This is about what you donít see in the paper. It is the ones like Iíve included here.

Itís the pics Iíve sent to quite a few of our firefighters, ones which focus on them and who they were in the moment. They are serious and show them getting after it. They can also be grinning from ear to ear, relieved of a ďjawbĒ well done. The temper shifts.

They can also be making faces at me. Thatís real life. Seeing it is part of the point.

As they should be, Iím aware of how the wrong impression can be made. There are people behind the mayhem. With any structure fire or wreck, they lose some part of themselves, however it may be. Careers and volunteers alike, the grasp is the same.

In ďThe Elements of Journalism,Ē Bill Kovach and Tom Rosenstiel characterize that journalism is ďstorytelling with a purpose.Ē To put it as one firefighter did after the freezing garage fire in December 2022, I painted a picture of how it all went down.

Banner Graphic/BRAND SELVIA

I aim to follow that covering my municipal and school boards. Really acknowledging it, my abilities to write a story and get ďthe shotĒ go hand in hand. Itís been covering the fire scene, though, where Iíve tried to capture a unique manifestation of humanity.

Iíve told the guys that their photos are for their posterity, not for their ego. Iíve been confident that this is taken to heart, that humility does accompany dignity in being a firefighter. If nothing else, a photo album is something for oneís kids to be proud of.

As for me, I sense that I am a recorder of history. But I know that Iím privileged to be a witness and to play the part that I have. My call to action is that we share in our story.

I believe all of the fire departments have to promote themselves. As a news reporter, saying that should come across as ironic. Iíve certainly sought to have a hand as such.

I recall telling this, though, to one of the volunteer fire chiefs back in 2022: You do not need me to make your news. If a crew goes out and saves a cat, it should post about it.

Banner Graphic/BRAND SELVIA

Something like that may not be news, but it is something positive for people to see. The way I see it as both a reporter and as a volunteer, thatís PR. Thatís showing the community what our service is about. Itís having those two keywords come together.

Iím proud of how Iíve promoted our firefighters in my ďsecondĒ beat, as much as I am the fourth estate in my primary one. My part as a reporter, though, is the periphery.

So we come back to the photo with Roy, and what Merrill gets at. Perhaps the gist is pride, a positive kind. That which centers around duty and compassion. And so if we keep our history present in that way, we tell our future that the people mattered.

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  • Great article, Brand!!

    -- Posted by vwhitaker11 on Mon, Jul 8, 2024, at 9:19 PM
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