Last Alarm

I recently attended the Public Safety Writers Association conference in Las Vegas. It was a fun event. There was a great mix of writers and experts from the writing industry. I met Keith Bettinger who is an ex-cop. The last day of the conference Keith handed me an envelope which I now share with my brothers and sisters of the Fire Service. Anyone who has ever attended a Firefighter funeral will identify with the events described by Keith in his letter.

Farewell To A Fireman

What a tribute to a Fireman who has answered his last alarm. My father, Lother Bettinger, was a 51 year member of Westbury Fire Department’s Hose Company # 1 and the Fire Police. He died two days before Thanksgiving this past year, and the Westbury Fire Department dealt with his death with dignity and grace. There was nothing we as a family could ask for that they did not think of before hand and provide for us.

The funeral was delayed because my mother was in the hospital awaiting a pacemaker and my family had to fly in from Las Vegas. NV. On Saturday afternoon, as we entered the funeral home for the first viewing, outside the front door was 965, an engine from Hose 1 and next to it on the sidewalk, folded reverently, was my father’s turnout gear. This was done both days of his funeral. It told the community someone special had died.

In between the daily services, we went to my sister and brother-in-law’s home to rest and have dinner. Both nights of the funeral, Hose 1 had food waiting for us. They relieved us of so much extra work and stress, and allowed my mother to rest between visiting sessions.

On Sunday night the department held its departmental services. Firefighters, both young and old took their turn standing honor guard at his casket and more than half the department attended the services in uniform. Many more attended in civilian attire. The department chaplain praised my father with a moving eulogy and each Firefighter took the time to render a salute at his casket.

On Monday morning, as we left the funeral home for the journey to the church for a funeral mass and the cemetery for internment, the Westbury Fire department was there once again. 965 was his flower car and the pall bearers were his fellow Firefighters. On the way to the church, we passed Westbury’s main firehouse. as we approached, the flag was at half mast and the firehouse was decked in black and purple bunting. The siren sounded one last time for Dad. Firefighters stood at attention on the ramp and rendered a salute and once again there was his neatly folded turnout gear signifying my father had answered his last alarm. The final moving tribute at the firehouse was an arch created by two tower ladders with one of the biggest American flags I have ever seen hanging between them for all to pass under. What an honor for a Firefighter and former sailor.

At the church, he was greeted by an honor guard and pall bearers of his fellow Firefighters, who rendered salutes and carried him into the church. At the end of the mass, he was treated with all the dignity and grace one could ask for from his friends.

Our family has a tradition of service to the village of Westbury. Besides my father’s 51 years, my uncle has been a member of the Westbury Fire Department for over 65 years. My brother-in-law has been a member for over 30 years, and even I spent 3 years as a member many years ago, yet I was moved by all that Hose Company # 1 and the entire Westbury Fire Department did for the Bettinger and Durnan families during this difficult time. Thank you Westbury Firefighters, your kindness and thoughtfulness will never be forgotten.

Readers you are looking into the heart and spirit of the Fire Service written into the pages of Keith Bettinger’s letter.

Stay safe my brothers and sisters.

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"Fire Horses" book authored by firefighter R.J. Haig.


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