Fallen heroes

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  • Stephen Machcinski, left, and James Dickman.
    Stephen Machcinski, left, and James Dickman.

    The shrieking sirens and flashing lights on fire engines as they whiz by can make drivers yield the right of way, or at least slow down. But often, amid busy lives and growing to-do lists, that may be where our recognition of a firefighter ends — until tragedy strikes.

    Pvt. James Dickman and Pvt. Stephen Machcinski died fighting a fire at an apartment building in North Toledo.
    Pvt. James Dickman and Pvt. Stephen Machcinski died fighting a fire at an apartment building in North Toledo.

    Firefighters James Dickman, 31, and Stephen Machcinski, 42, died Sunday after they were trapped inside a burning North Toledo apartment building. They were the first Toledo firefighters killed in the line of duty since 1981.

    Their untimely deaths should serve as a stark reminder to us to acknowledge and appreciate those who serve and protect. Firefighters, police officers, and other emergency workers put their lives on the line for others every day.

    It’s easy to forget or take for granted what they do. Imagine, though, if they were not here to keep communities safe.

    These men and women are ordinary heroes who do extraordinary things. For them, there is no hesitation or thought of self-preservation when they are faced with a dangerous situation.

    When they respond to calls, there is also no guarantee of their survival, or a positive outcome. Yet they suit up and do it anyway.

    As Toledo Mayor D. Michael Collins said Monday: “The average person would run in the opposite direction,” instead of running toward harm’s way.

    Private Dickman, called Jamie, had been on the job for fewer than six months. Private Machcinski was a veteran of more than 15 years with the fire department.

    They were brave men who served with dignity and pride. Private Dickman leaves behind a wife, a 3-year-old daughter, and a 1-month-old son, along with his parents and two sisters. Private Machcinski is survived by his parents and a sister and brother.

    “He absolutely loved what he did,” Fire Chief Luis Santiago said Monday of Private Dickman. “This was his dream job.” Chief Santiago added that he had worked with Private Machcinski, calling him a “great firefighter and a great member of our department.”

    And now they are fallen heroes. In the days and weeks to come, find a way to pay tribute to these men, who paid the ultimate price for their city and its people.

    Say hello to a public servant. Wave a hand, or tip your hat. And take a moment to think about the families, friends, and fellow firefighters Mr. Machchinski and Mr. Dickman leave behind.