Part of a National Post Opinion Article
National Post November 8, 2010 – 12:05 pm
I want to attach to this letter one written me a few weeks ago by Rob Cullen, a police officer in York Region:
Last night, while working in my usual role as a police platoon sergeant, we were called to a VSA — vital signs absent — in the basement apartment of a house just north of Keswick.
The victim was 78. A retired firefighter. His small basement apartment was tidy. Upon the walls were tonnes of framed photos. He was very well read. History books lined his shelves. But he had no next of kin. I had no one to visit, no one to see. I left the detectives and constable to await the coroner, and have the body removed to its final rest.
As I walked down the driveway, the constable followed me and said, “Sarge, they’re gonna carry this guy out in a plastic bag. All the neighbours are watching. He was a firefighter for 30 years. He’s got no one . . . we can’t let him go like that. Can you find us a Canadian flag, so that when they take him out of the house, we can lay it on the gurney when they roll him to the hearse?”
It was 7:30 on a Tuesday night. Where to find a flag? The Dollar Store. Sure enough, they had one. I bought the flag, and took it back to the scene.
Firefighter Robert Wilson was brought up from his apartment. Before he left the door, the flag was draped across him, to honour the life of a man who was willing to give it at any time. The neighbours watched in silent respect. The people from the funeral home tucked the flag secure and removed it with him. I expect it will be buried with him, too.
For a short time, he wasn’t alone. He was a firefighter, a hero. He was a Canadian. All it took was a flag to show it. Maybe it’s time we find our heroes before their only honour comes from a dollar store.