Once a year, red lights flashing in the night don’t necessarily mean danger.
There’s no fire. Nobody’s dying.
Instead it’s a time for area firefighters to gather in a Silent Parade to honor and remember fallen comrades and other victims of fire.
This year’s procession will feature representatives from as many as 30 departments. It begins at 7 p.m. Friday and runs down Maple Avenue from Hinsdale to Lisle.
“It’s not your typical Fourth of July parade with sirens,” said Marsha Giesler, coordinator of the Silent Parade and assistant to the Downers Grove fire chief. “It happens at dusk and in the dark.”
Parade goers often bring flashlights and American flags to show support.
One of the most popular areas to watch the parade is at Main and Maple in Downers Grove, Giesler said, where two ladder trucks hang a large American flag with a spotlight on it.
“There’s no way you can see that without kind of getting goose bumps,” Giesler said.
Departments bring a variety of equipment, from fire engines to ladder trucks and antique trucks to chief’s vehicles.
The 18th annual parade concludes at Trinity Lutheran Church, 1101 Kimberly Way, Lisle, with a memorial service. Steve Tullis, a firefighter in both Hinsdale and LaGrange Park, will give the keynote speech.
Tullis says he’s twice been touched by line-of-duty deaths as a result of the No. 1 killer of firefighters: heart attacks.
“Unfortunately that’s how many of us die in the fire service. It’s something the leaders of this profession are trying to correct through initiatives like diet and a focus on health,” Tullis said. “The stress it puts on our body — despite all of those efforts, we continue to lose on average 100 firefighters a year nationwide.”
His own father, La Grange Park Fire Chief Arthur “Bucky” Tullis, suffered a heart attack and died while responding to a call. And close family friend Mark Johnson, a deputy chief with the Hinsdale Fire Department, similarly died.
Firefighters need to be strong while responding to calls — but they need to take care of themselves as individuals, Tullis said.
“The overall message is that we need to take care of each other,” Tullis said. “We spend a lot of time taking care of complete strangers any time of night or day. We really extend ourselves to make sure they receive the highest emergency care.”
“We really need to take care of each other just as readily.”
For details about the silent parade, call (630) 434-5990.Copyright © 2013 Paddock Publications, Inc. All rights reserved.