The Owens Community College Concert Band’s upcoming annual winter show will have a special poignance this year: Two-front row seats will be left empty as a salute to Privates James Dickman and Stephen Machcinski, the Toledo firefighters killed on Jan. 26.
Fred Dais, the band director, said the gesture is only appropriate, given that the pops concert is intended as a tribute to firefighters, emergency medical technicians, and other first responders in Lucas, Ottawa, and Wood counties.
“We started working on this in November, well before the tragic situation of two weeks ago,” he explained. “The empty seats are for the missing firefighters.”
The free concert is scheduled for 2:30 p.m. Feb. 23 in the Center for Fine and Performing Arts at Owens’ Toledo-area campus, 30335 Oregon Rd., in Perrysburg Township. The theater is handicapped-accessible and has free parking nearby.
“We hope to fill the Owens theater with firefighters, EMTs, and first responders and have a huge audience to pay them tribute,” Mr. Dais said.
The concert will include a special tribute to Mr. Dickman and Mr. Machcinski by Tim Davies, the chaplain for the Allen-Clay Joint Fire District in western Ottawa County, whose honor guard will present the colors.
The firefighters died battling an apartment building blaze in North Toledo that authorities say was arson. The building owner, Ray Abou-Arab, has been indicted on multiple charges, including two counts each of aggravated murder and aggravated arson, and is held in the Lucas County jail in lieu of $5 million bond. He could face the death penalty if convicted.
Mark Padley, a captain with the Allen-Clay fire district, described the two Toledo firefighters as “our fallen brothers,” and said invitations have been sent to all fire departments in the three counties.
He said the concert will be especially appreciated by volunteer firefighters. “It really does mean a lot to the guys who leave their homes in the middle of Christmas dinner and go out to take care of the public,” he said.
Mr. Dais said the music itself will have an upbeat tempo.
“We don’t want people to feel worse a couple of weeks after the deaths. It’s a pops concert. We’re not going to turn it into a funeral, but we can celebrate their lives and express what a great job they did. We hope to have free refreshments afterwards so people who come to the concert will be able to mix and mingle with the first responders there.”
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