I live in the country. It’s very quiet here. Recently, after hearing coyotes, I’ve been listening more carefully at night, hoping to hear coyotes again, or maybe owls. The frogs and crickets are silent in winter.
A few nights ago, after friends visited, I stepped outside and heard something unfamiliar. It sounded like a train or big machinery, mixed with car alarms and sirens. The sound was low in pitch and irregular but steady, coming from the north and seeming fairly close. It was strange and disturbing.
A friend explained. This was the sound of dozens of fire engines and other emergency vehicles, escorting the body of deceased fire fighter Natalie Dempsey from her public funeral. This is how fire fighters and other emergency responders honor and memorialize their colleagues lost in the line of duty.
Natalie Dempsey, a member of the all Mizpah Volunteer Fire Company, died Christmas morning answering a fire call before dawn. She was 21 years old and had recently completed her training. Details can be found in the Press of Atlantic City.
Natalie Dempsey’s death is both a private and a public tragedy. The Mizpah Volunteer Fire Company (assisted by the Galloway Township Police and other agencies) took responsibility for the funeral held six days after her death. Fire companies from New Jersey and beyond sent members and equipment to express respect and solidarity and sorrow. I hope the dignity of the occasion gave some measure of comfort to her family and friends.
I hope I never hear such a sad sound again.