Community shaken by loss of young firefighter
By Steve Huffman
The junior firefighters at Miller’s Ferry Fire Department have lost their star quarterback.
When the firefighters at Miller’s Ferry held their Tuesday night training sessions, the events inevitably ended with the younger firefighters getting together for a spirited game of touch football.
“Where that van is outside, that’s where the football field started,” Capt. Todd Kidd of the Miller’s Ferry Fire Department explained Monday afternoon, motioning toward a TV van parked behind the department.
A hundred or so people were gathered in the department Monday, patiently awaiting a procession that bore the bodies of Justin Monroe and Victor Isler from Charlotte, where they underwent autopsies.
The procession included stops at Miller’s Ferry and Spencer fire departments, as well as the Salisbury Fire Department headquarters on East Innes Street.
They were all departments with which Monroe, 19, served. Some noted it was appropriate that the procession made its first stop at Miller’s Ferry since that’s where Monroe started his firefighting career.
But back to those Tuesday night football games.
Kidd said the younger firefighters would heave the football around like nobody’s business, and said Monroe always played quarterback.
Kidd said Monroe was a good football player.
“He was small in stature, but he had a huge heart,” Kidd said.
Displayed on a table inside the Miller’s Ferry Fire Department were articles from Monroe’s association with the organization.
Included were the young firefighter’s boots and helmet, as well as patches sent from other fire departments across the nation whose members share in the mourning of Monroe and Isler.
A fishing rod was also displayed, a testament to Monroe’s love of the great outdoors.
In the center of it all was a football signed by all the firefighters who’d shared a Tuesday night game with Monroe.
As the procession made its way off nearby Interstate 85, firefighters manning the bridge along Long Ferry Road stood at attention and saluted.
At Miller’s Ferry, the front and rear bay doors of the department were opened, allowing the SUV carrying the bodies to pass through.
Monroe’s fellow firefighters stood and saluted, silence filling the department. Over a nearby radio crackled the “assignment complete” command.
A bell sounded five times, indicating a firefighter’s end of duty.
Todd noted that Monroe was promoted to lieutenant of the Miller’s Ferry Fire Department last October, a remarkable ascension up the chain of command considering his age.
“He was destined to be a full-time firefighter,” Todd said.
He said the turnout at Miller’s Ferry on Monday wasn’t surprising considering the respect area residents have for Monroe and his family.
“This is a tight-knit community,” Todd said. “The people here loved that boy.”
Over in Spencer, plenty of people lined Salisbury Avenue as they waited for the procession.
Chasity Young, 13, Kenneth West, 19, Lindsey Hinson, 12, and Dylan Benfield, 11, walked the sidewalk along Salisbury Avenue handing small red ribbons with straight pins to anyone who wanted one.
The foursome said they’d passed out about 80 of the ribbons. They said their mothers ó most of whom have ties to the Spencer Fire Department ó helped make the ribbons.
They said they passed them out to show their support for, and love of, Monroe.
West said he graduated from nearby North Rowan High School with Monroe.
“He was always honest,” West said. “He was the nicest guy. I don’t think he had a mean bone in his body.”
Chasity said she knew Monroe because her step-father, Wayne Comer, is a Spencer firefighter.
Chasity said Monroe loved to kid with her.
“He was always one to make you laugh,” she said.
Contact Steve Huffman at 704-797-4222 or firstname.lastname@example.org.