L. Mauser 10/2/2014
So many people were expected at my Dad’s services that we rented a beautiful local community center for his visitation and funeral. I still find myself having a hard time remembering everyone who came to pay their respects. I made it a point to stand at his casket for nearly all of his eight-hour visitation and speak to every firefighter about FBHA. I also spoke about the Alliance during my eulogy, in an attempt to keep this from happening to someone else. I know that everyone there heard me, but one person in particular took what I said to heart.
I hadn’t ever met Mark Adkins until a few weeks after Dad died. Mark sent me a message saying he’d like to run the half Flying Pig Marathon in Cincinnati in full turnout gear to raise awareness for FBHA in memory of Dad. I was beyond shocked. After my fiancé Eric and I met with Mark for dinner, it felt like we’d always known him. With Mark being a firefighter in Northern Kentucky, we’d had many similar experiences and knew many of the same people. Funny part is, as much as those things made me already feel like he was a friend, it was many of the personal stories he told us, and his genuine desire to spread the message of FBHA, that made him feel like a brother.
In the months following that dinner, I kept up with Mark as he trained for the Pig. Week by week, he added a little more of his gear to his rigorous training schedule and began running different courses, much of which included running from firehouse to firehouse. It was really inspiring to see Mark get stronger, even in some pretty awful weather, and to see him get mentally pumped-up for the race. When he’d get to a destination firehouse, the crews there would provide him with drinks and a place to cool down, which was kind of poignant, to me, anyway, seeing as that brotherhood was the reason behind all this effort. I can also tell you Mark never ran alone: my Dad was always with him.
A couple weeks before the race, I thought it would be great if we could get a local print publication or TV news crew to cover the story of Mark running. I applied a relentless campaign of Tweets, e-mails, and submission of online requests. I heard nothing, for a few days, and was genuinely sad we’d gotten no replies, despite having some connections to local news reporters. Then, just as I’d given up, my e-mail made its way to WLWT Channel 5 Executive Producer Jon Carlisle. Mr. Carlisle sent me a heartfelt e-mail back, in which he told me how thankful he was I had been so honest with him, how he was so glad to hear my story, and him telling me WLWT would be beyond honored to cover this story. I’ll be honest; I cried. I sat right where I’m sitting now, and just cried. I am not a pretty crier mind you; I have big tears, my nose runs a lot, and I’ve got a perforated septum so I make this weird whistle noise when I’m breathing heavy (the things I admit in attempts to be totally honest…), but it all just came out because it felt like now this might be a big deal. And, well, I was crying because it felt like my Dad would have thought this was awesome.
We met with a cameraman and the very talented and kind reporter Kyla Woods at Central Campbell firehouse a few days later to tape a segment which would play several different times that evening and the next morning. My fiancé Eric and cousin Melanie accompanied me to the station and my interview was taped first. I’m a decent public speaker and had gone through media training before, so I knew what to expect. Mark was a little more nervous and a hug that was played on-air later was just me genuinely trying to make him feel more comfortable. I was, and am, so proud of what he did and his interview was great. If you’d like to see the full segment, you can check it out here on WLWT.
The night before the race finally came and I had an idea while I was on Twitter. I thought it would be cool if I could ask firefighters across the country to send Mark a message of encouragement and then I’d make him a map with the supporter’s locations. I stayed up all night, giggling with wild abandon (which is a nice way of me saying I laughed so hard I snorted), each time I got a reply Tweet. By the time we left for the race at the crack of dawn, dozens of our brothers and sisters from across the country were part of #TeamMark.
We met up with Mark’s family to watch him at the beginning of the race in Newport, Kentucky and we were all so excited. I have to admit watching the huge crowd of runners come across a large bridge from Cincinnati into Northern Kentucky was impressive, but the most powerful image was Mark in his gear. You know how movies have those impressive, iconic moments where a hero emerges from the rubble after some crazy explosion? This was one of those moments.
In the pale morning light with fog rising off the river, a hero emerged right before our eyes.
After Mark lapped back towards Cincinnati, we all hopped in our cars (I feel 100% lazy saying that!) so we could watch him at the finish line. Trevor Runaway, a younger firefighter with Campbell County, was running with Mark, which made us all feel a little relief knowing someone was keeping an eye on him. News crews from every station in Cincinnati were tracking Mark and Trevor’s progress and famous runners who were commentators for the race told viewers how impressed they were by Mark’s athleticism. Firefighters and their families from across the city were sending us texts exclaiming they’d seen Mark on TV and he looked great. As Mark came down that last corner to the finish line and saw all our signs, he got this smile on his face that was priceless. It was the coolest damn thing I’ve ever experienced.
I sent out a mass text and Tweet that simply said, “HE DID IT. #TeamMark”
The reason I’m telling you this story is because on Saturday (October fourth) Mark, Captain Dill, and I are receiving the Hometown Hero Award from the University of Cincinnati during their game at Paul Brown Stadium. We are so honored to have been selected and can’t wait to share the message of FBHA with everyone watching the game Saturday. We’re incredibly thankful to UC for allowing us to be a part of such a great event and for believing first responder mental health is as important as we do.
I’m going to leave you with a quote again today, just like last time. I think you’ll like it.
“We live in a world in which we need to share responsibility. It’s easy to say, ‘It’s not my child, not my community, not my world, not my problem.’ Then there are those who see the need and respond. I consider those people my heroes.” -Mr. Rogers
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