Three new firefighters joined the Bridgewater Fire Department on Monday as they graduated the Massachusetts Firefighting Academy as part of the Class of 254. Daniel Preach, Jonathan Hart and Neil Harrington were among the graduates representing 16 fire departments across the Commonwealth.
Firefighter Richard Smith, a 14 year veteran of the Bridgewater Fire Department delivered the commencement address to the graduates in an emotional, heartfelt speech. In his speech, Smith highlighted the brotherhood of the fire service and how teamwork is the foundation of the fire service. “Brotha is not just a term of endearment, it is strength, reliance and vigor. The person next to you is someone you can talk to, someone to rely on, and someone to lean on…”
Smith learned first-hand the importance of his team of brothers earlier this year. “On March 14th as my shift was ending, I was in the bunk room, stripping my bed, and went into V.F. In laymen’s terms, my heart stopped beating normally and for all intents and purposes, I was dead. I have no recollection of the events of that day or the 12 hours prior to this event. But without brotherhood and the power of God, I would not be here today to thank one special member of YOUR graduating class.”
“Neil Harrington was at Station 2 getting ready for that day’s training. He was early and decided to wander around the fire station. Walking down the hall he heard someone snoring and thinking, ‘It’s almost 7:30, it’s weird for someone to still be sleeping.’ Instead of ignoring it, he walked further down the hall and entered my bedroom to find me face down, and realizing that the ‘snoring’ he heard was my tongue obstructing my airway, he rolled me over and realized that I had stopped breathing and had no pulse.”
“He ran for help, and thankfully the Engine crew that was heading back to headquarters had not left Station 2. He immediately came back and began CPR, while the other members of the Engine crew and on-duty ambulance crew grabbed the cardiac monitor and drug box. I was defibrillated once and my heart began to beat normally.”
“I spent a week in the hospital and now have an implanted defibrillator in my chest. Because of this, I will not be able to return to the fire service. Thank you Neil. You will always have a special place in my heart, my soul and with my family.”
“I know I have not seen Neil since this event, but I felt that there was no better way to thank him, but to do it publicly at graduation and let him know that he is and always will be, my brotha.”
“Be consistent; always keep dedicated to the job, your fellow firefighters and the goals you set for yourself. This attitude will allow you to achieve objectives you never felt you could accomplish and create great opportunities that will follow you throughout your life. Good luck. Stay safe, and God bless.”