By Kathy Chaffin
In their heart of hearts, they know it could happen.
Every time they hear the siren of a fire truck, family members of firefighters know their loved ones could be risking their lives. It’s part of the job.
For many, it’s a life passion. For 19-year-old Justin Monroe, it was the realization of a childhood dream.
That dream was cut short Friday morning when Monroe was killed battling a five-alarm fire at Salisbury Millwork. His comrade, 40-year-old Victor Isler, was pronounced dead upon arrival in the emergency department of Rowan Regional Medical Center.
Monroe’s mother, Lisa, was working in the medical center’s accounting department when word spread that one firefighter had been killed and four others injured two hours into the fire.
Zandra Spencer, special projects coordinator for Rowan Regional’s corporate communications, said medical center employees were not told the identity of the fallen firefighter when the injured were brought in at about 9. EMTs were administering CPR to Isler when they arrived, she said, but were unable to revive him.
Spencer said several Rowan Regional employees have firefighter family members. Three staff members who had come from other departments to help out with the injured have spouses or children who are firefighters.
When the body of a fifth firefighter arrived at about 11, Spencer said the tragedy hit close to home. It was Justin Monroe.
“It’s devastating when one of your coworkers loses a family member,” she said, “but losing a child at such a young age is really heartbreaking. Children are not supposed to die before their parents.
“I feel so bad for his mom and dad.”
Justin lived in Spencer with his parents.
Lisa Monroe’s colleagues from the accounting department and staff members from throughout the medical center went to comfort her and her husband, Eddie, when they heard what had happened, Spencer said. “I think everybody here feels the loss.”
Rowan Regional Chaplain James Cook said pastors of Monroe family members were there to console them and that clergy from all over the county had called to see if they could help.
A 2006 graduate of North Rowan High School, Justin Monroe had wanted to be a firefighter since he was a little boy, Spencer said.
Greg Shue, former Miller Ferry fire chief, said Monroe entered the department’s junior firefighter program at age 16 and continued as a volunteer. He started work at the Salisbury Fire Department on June 7, 2007, just four days before Isler joined the department.
As firefighters, both men put their lives on the line to save the property and lives of others. “They’re our heroes,” Spencer said.
Monroe’s death is the second firefighter fatality to strike the Rowan Regional family.
Jimmy Shue, the 49-year-old Locke volunteer firefighter killed on Dec. 14, 1995, worked in the medical center’s facility engineering department for 13 years.
A 20-year veteran of the fire department, he was driving a pumper to a fire call when he was killed in an accident.
Contact Kathy Chaffin at 704-797-4249 or email@example.com.
By Kathy Chaffin