Retired SW Florida firefighter travels to support fallen firefighters in Texas
Photo: Video by fox4now.com
FORT MYERS, Fla. - A Southwest Florida man is bringing the soothing sound of comfort to survivors of the fertilizer plant explosion.
John McMahon served almost 40 years as a local firefighter from Lehigh Acres to South Trail Fort Myers.
Though he is now retired, he feels the call of duty more than ever.
Instead of a fire hose, he's now using a drum.
"Taking care of our own, that's our motto," McMahon said.
When he picked up a drum for the first time 4 years ago, it was for moments like the one he's now preparing for.
"It hit home," McMahon said of learning about the deadly fertilizer plant explosion last week in West, Texas. "Obviously seeing that many people getting killed in the line of duty and the devastating effect of that explosion."
As he has for so many other fallen heroes, Thursday McMahon will be playing for the 10 first responders killed last week in that explosion.
"We're going out there, we're playing for them," he said. "We're going to pay tribute to them for their dedication."
McMahon is a member of Guns n' Hoses Pipes n' Drums of Southwest Florida made up of local first responders.
"Our goal when we're playing is to play for funerals," he said.
Funerals of fallen police, firemen, military and EMS. McMahon will join with dozens of other first responders from pipes and drums bands across the country.
"We're going to have a great honor," said McMahon.
The musicians will march the procession into the arena at Baylor University in Waco.
McMahon is all too familiar with memorials like this.
"I lost my partner and I lost 3 friends in the World Trade Center," he said.
McMahon's answer to answering this call is simple.
"Because this is what we do," he said. "When a firefighter is down, a cop's down, medic or military, we step up and that's what we do."
Now, he's honoring his fallen brothers and sisters the best way he knows how.
"The best part is when family comes up, they don't know me, they put their arms around you, they give you a big hug and say thank you," he said. "Thank you for remembering my son, thank you for remembering my dad. That's what it's all about."
Six other firefighters from Southwest Florida are also in Texas. Overnight Wednesday, the North Fort Myers Honor Guard is watching over the caskets of those fallen first responders.