Archive for September, 2016



Letter from a father.

February 28, 2012

Firefighter Scott Charles Bellucci

With a strong internal drive to help others, Scott had always dreamed of becoming a police officer, a soldier, or a firefighter. He struggled through his high school years fighting ADD and depression, and always relied upon his need to help others and make people smile as a way to cope. No one can ever say they were in Scott’s company and did not laugh, or at the bare minimum, smiled. His presence would light up a room and you certainly knew he was there.

Scott’s ADD unfortunately always seemed to amplify his problems. Yet his yearning to assist others drove Scott towards the advocacy for those in need, and defending those who could not defend themselves. Scott always gravitated towards the underdog in an attempt to fix issues and right wrongs. As a member of the high school “Dare to Dream” club, he advocated for the less fortunate, handicapped, learning disabled, or emotionally challenged, and tried to instill in them that they were not disabled, instead they were only different.

Scott himself dared to dream and pushed forward not letting anyone hold him back as he overcame his disabilities. And after a difficult physical and emotional struggle, Scott became a member of the graduating class of the Bergen County Fire Academy on August 6th, 2010. With a newly earned and certified title, Firefighter Scott Charles Bellucci had achieved what he thought impossible and fulfilled his dream.

As a member in a volunteer engine company, Scott was quick to volunteer or step forward whenever something needed to be done. Whether it was dressing up as Sparky the Dog on fire prevention days, showing cub and boy scouts the firehouse and engine, answering the call for assistance, standing by during the annual Fourth of July fireworks display, or answering a fire call regardless of the time or place, Scott was always ready willing and able to assist as needed.

Scott never gave up on his quest to help others, even if it meant stopping in the street if he saw someone who even appeared to need assistance. But Scott never forgot his roots and would on occasion stop in to see those in the Dare to Dream club where he would answer questions or just provide an ear for those in need. In 2011, Scott was asked to speak at Montclair State University where a convention for learning disabled high school students was being held. Wearing his dress blues, Scott took the stage and delivered a speech which was not prepared, written down, or even rehearsed. Scott spoke from the heart and knew exactly what he wanted to share with the audience, and did so in an exceptional manner. I thank God that Bob Haugh, Project Coordinator for the New Jersey Office of Special Education, was onsite and filmed Scott’s speech as Scott is now immortalized for all to see on YouTube.

Scott was a champion for those in need; however, he failed to be able to control his inner demons when it came to dealing with his ADD and depression. His outwards appearance was that of a smile and a love for his family, friends, and God. Yet internally his struggles continued until on February 17, 2012 when Scott took his own life. Not a moment goes by that Scott is not missed as we try to come to terms with the grief of his loss. The body might be gone, but the spirit lives on forever. Scott will never be forgotten.

Joe Bellucci

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Billy Lewis

A letter from parents to their family and friends.

March 14, 2016

Dear Family – Dear Friends,

I feel the need to tell you Billy’s story. Quite possibly it’s just therapy for me. We all have been overwhelmed by the devastating loss of our Billy. Although I do tell people now that Billy has been found! Found by our Lord, found by our family and friends who have gone before him,  found comfort, found peace and light.

His career began at the age of 19. We knew right from the beginning some of the horrible calls he went on because the captain in Live Oak would always try to keep us in the loop, asking us to “watch him”. He didn’t share his work with us. I believe that he wanted to shield us from the life that he experienced. I remember asking him “how was your shift?” – standard answer was “you don’t want to know!”

Though the impact started early on, the huge, noticeable changes were obvious about 4 years ago. Billy became very argumentative, angry and frustrated and intolerant. He began moving away from the activities and causes that he had given so much time to as well as some friends. About that time he lost his home due to the horrible mortgage crash and bad advice. About the the union members voted to go on a48 hour work shift. We distinctly remember him saying a number of times that it was a really bad choice. He once said “it will take someone dying” for them to realize this error. Little did we know! He said for many stations it wouldn’t be a problem but for stations like his it would be detrimental. His station was located in Oak Park – the busiest and worst areas in Sacramento and quite possibly California. Stress along with sleep deprivation was inevitably the downward spiral for him.

Three years ago he realized he needed help. He found a counselor who made him feel comfortable. He was diagnosed with the long term, chronic PTSD. Two years ago, we received a call from his captain. We were told we had to come pick him up – he had a breakdown. We would later find out that there had been numerous horrific calls during his last two shifts. It took him down to his knees. After a few days in our home he assured us that he would see his counselor, he would be “fine” and he went back to his place.

The department put him on light duty at the training center. He said there were a couple of guys who were obvious skeptics. Treated him badly and I know that hurt him. He was invited to attend a major PTSD retreat center for first responders. During that time period my brother died. Billy took it very hard.

Billy came home from the week long retreat so happy and confident – our son was back! He was on a cloud. He felt he had been given the tools to combat this illness. He was also given the insight to some personal issues and was willing to share with all of us. But as often happens when we are on a “cloud,” reality sets in and it was not meant to last.

Sometime later he felt he was well enough to go back to work. Unfortunately, the department sent him back to the same station. The morning he drove up to go back to work he called me, sitting in his truck outside the station crying. He couldn’t go in. I suggested he go to the main office. Later that day we learned he resigned. We couldn’t convince him to seek disability. He said if he filed he could never be hired as a firefighter again by any department. He loved his profession and still hoped for a future.

A few months later he attempted to get re-instated in Sacramento. He met with the chief and explained honestly what had taken place. He told the chief that he could not work on the ambulance. He did have enough seniority to make this request and the re-instatement was accepted. He was so excited. He even went out and bought new uniforms. He was told he would have to spend a couple of weeks in the offices and then would be sent to a station. Two days later he gets and email – not a call – a blankity / blank email from some pencil pusher in another office. The message said that there was a policy that if you were gone more than six months you lose your seniority and would be required to go on the ambulance as if you were starting all over. Billy had missed the deadline by just a few days! The chief didn’t know about the policy and told Billy he couldn’t by-pass it! Devastating is an understatement. He received no correspondence nor was he asked to meet with anyone after he resigned. He nor the chief knew about this policy! We have always been astounded by Billy’s bad luck. My cousin said “Billy couldn’t buy good luck!” And that seemed so very true, so often. We would just shake our heads often asking “Why!”

PTSD, as I have read eats away at the heart, mind and soul. We have also learned just recently from a professional who specializes in PTSD that recent studies have proven that long term, chronic PTSD has a neurobiological impact on the brain. There is damage to the gray matter in 3 lobes of the brain and specific brain regions literally shrink. We were told that it is comparable to those who have had head trauma injuries. This knowledge has had a great impact on us. It has offered a much clearer understanding of both the mental and physical impairment that Billy endured. It is heartbreaking for us. We know now that as the years moved on he just couldn’t purge the horrific memories and his brain just didn’t work correctly. We also believe that Billy’s heart was just too big. He couldn’t forget. Loneliness added a huge element to his life. Without a partner he went home alone.

Our hearts have always swelled with pride for Billy not just because he was our son but the profession he decided to pursue – helping others. However, he was more loved and respected that we ever realized. The wonderful memorial along with the messages from all around the country and some from other countries was proof of that for sure! The self medication of alcohol is very typical with the illness. We are proud to say that during the last 6 months and even in death he was sober. However, ultimately, he had no strength to fight the despair when huge new obstacles came up during the last few months of his life. He was tired and lost hope. As I have said over and over – it was the “perfect storm”!

I have absolutely NO doubt that Billy would NEVER have consciously hurt us. His heart and mind were broken. And bless his heart – he obviously couldn’t think clearly.

I could not live my life without my faith in God and a true deep spirituality that I carry every day. I believe it is imperative to find a spiritual side in our life. It is there inside of us. There is no doubt in my mind that there is a higher Being, my Lord, my God. Many around the world use different names. They worship differently. They have different ideas about the hereafter. Still the huge, vast majority BELIEVE! We pray that you find this inner belief to sustain you when life hands you tragedy.

Billy loved being a firefighter. The paramedic part of his career did great harm. He said once that the worst part of his job was witnessing “man’s inhumanity to man”.

He DID NOT ask for this burden, this illness, it was handed to him as surely cancer is handed to some and not others!

We thank each of you with sincere gratefulness for your support and comfort.

Love to All,

Karen & “Lew” Lewis

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9/2/16 Guest writer: April Brown

Andrew and I met in April of 2011. A mutual friend introduced us. Some people say that love at first site does not exist, but I knew from the moment we met that he would be my forever.

Andrew joined The Bridgton Fire Department in Maine that winter. He did not have a high school diploma but knew he wanted to take his Firefighter 1 and 2 so he went back and took his GED. He completed both Firefighter 1 and 2 and then went on to take his EMT (B) and unfortunately did not complete his pro boards.

Andrew joined the Sweden Fire department in 2013 and was promoted a year later to Captain. Andrew was the type of guy that everyone wanted to be paired up with. When he got on scene it was all work for him. He saved his lieutenant from falling into a hole onto a water heater that could have seriously injured him. He was probably dangerous at times, but then again, I think that every firefighter is put in dangerous situations daily.

Andrew’s passion was being in the bucket of the ladder truck. He would tell me it was like a video game how he could maneuver the bucket around. His superiors would have to tell him when it was time to take a break, or he just would not take one.

Andrew was active with all the fundraisers that both of his departments put on. He was especially active with “Operation Christmas Angels” a local church and the Bridgton fire department teamed up every year to provide Christmas presents in the area for children who would otherwise not have a Christmas. Every Christmas we would take the trucks out and deliver presents. Andrew had a way with animals and children. I think he just had such a huge heart they were just naturally attracted to him. Andrew left behind 3 children of his own and he was such a wonderful daddy.

Andrew really started to show his signs of PTSD during the last 2 weeks before he took his own life. He had been sleeping maybe 2 hours a night and vomiting every morning. I would ask him if he was okay and he would say he was fine he was just having nightmares.

Andrew also taught extrication classes and was the go to guy for extrication on both of his departments. My friend from high school had passed away in a car accident and she was not discovered until the morning after her crash. Andrew was there and was the one who had to cut her out and come home to tell me about it. She was the one that he would have nightmares about. He would say that the dreams felt so real and that it wasn’t her he was cutting out of the car, it was me.

I know I can’t go around with the what if’s. I just hope that somehow his story and the signs that I was seeing can help someone else. If I could say anything to someone that is suffering from PTSD it would be to get help. You need to talk about it, it is not a shameful thing. I know as firefighters it’s just do the job and push everything else aside. Don’t become part of a statistic and leave the people who love you behind. The pain you leave your loved ones is indescribable. I know for myself there will always be a piece of me that died along a long with him that I will never get back.

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