By Shavonne Potts
It’s what Justin Monroe and Victor Isler would’ve wanted.
Their customized, fire-engine-red caskets were emblazoned with bright orange flames shooting up the side. A Dalmation sat to one side overlooking a fire truck.
It was reminiscent of what the two men who worked and died together were proudest of. Monroe, 19, and Isler, 40, died while fighting a fire a week ago at Salisbury Millwork.
Their combined funerals were held Thursday at Catawba College’s Omwake-Dearborn Chapel.
After the funeral, a procession of firetrucks, buses and private cars wound its way into Rowan Memorial Park.
The procession stretched a couple of miles long, slowly making its way to the graveside.
Both families sat underneath a canopy, patiently waiting while firefighters lowered Monroe’s casket from the Miller’s Ferry Fire truck.
Isler will be buried later in New York in a separate service.
“Firefighters, remove your covers,” a voice rang out.
Firefighters, riding atop the truck, each with a watchful eye on the casket draped in an American flag, removed their fire helmets.
“Firefighters replace your covers,” came the next command.
The men and women replaced their helmets with uniform caps.
In a systematic yet emotional fashion, the firefighters moved the casket down the firetruck to the next waiting hand until it reached the ground.
“Step. Step. Step. Step,” a man called as the men moved into place.
Those huddled around saluted, and others covered their hearts with their right hand, facing Monroe’s casket as loving arms moved it in front of his family.
The sun sparkled and the occasional duck flew overhead. The black cloth that hung loosely from the trucks flapped back and forth in the wind.
Throughout the graveside service, uniformed firefighters guarded Isler’s casket still on top of a Salisbury firetruck, protecting their brother even in death.
When the service was over, the men still flanking all sides of the truck, stood at attention while the families greeted fire personnel and supporters.
Others took pictures of a sketched mural affixed to the vault cover. It contained images synonymous with firefighting ó a firefighter cradling a child in the forefront, firefighters battling a fire, a horse-drawn fire carriage and a fireboat in the background.
At the bottom of the mural were the words:
When it was over, quiet hugs were shared, silent tears shed and the sun set in the background.
While the train of firetrucks, buses and cars made their way back toward town, people continued to pay their respects. They stood silently on their porches and in their yards. Drivers pulled their cars to the side of the road.
A Walgreens message board read: “With shared sadness our hearts go out to you.”
A sentiment shared by the entire community.
Contact Shavonne Potts at 704-797-4253 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
By Shavonne Potts