Fallen firefighter’s family thankful for outpouring of support

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, December 2, 2009

By Steve Huffman
Salisbury Post
MILLER’S FERRY ó Eddie and Lisa Monroe want residents of Rowan County to know one thing:
Thank you.
To all those who phoned ó many in tears ó to offer their sympathies, thank you.
To the hundreds ó from small children to the handicapped in wheelchairs ó who lined the funeral route for their son, Justin, and his comrade, Victor Isler, and saluted or placed their hats over their hearts, thank you.
To those who stood in line for up to four hours to offer their condolences when the family held a visitation at Miller’s Ferry Fire Department, thank you.
To those who lowered their flags to half-staff or wore red ribbons in honor of Justin, thank you.
“I don’t think this town will ever forget,” Eddie said. “It all means so much to us.”
Justin and Victor were Salisbury firefighters who died March 7 in a blaze at Salisbury Millwork. Justin, 19, was buried last week at Rowan Memorial Park.
Victor, 40, was returned to his native New York for burial.
On Tuesday morning, Eddie and Lisa met U.S. Rep. Howard Coble at the Miller’s Ferry Fire Department. The department is in Coble’s 6th Congressional District.
The Monroes and Coble shook hands and hugged, then Coble thanked the pair for the sacrifice their son made.
Coble said he remembered the shock he felt when he heard of the deaths of Justin and Victor.
“I thought, ‘My, God, here we go again,’ ” Coble said. “Another firefighter down.”
Coble said he’s a member of the Congressional Fire Caucus and said he’s always been one of the legislative branch’s most vocal supporters of firefighters.
“Mr and Mrs. Monroe, Justin will not have died in vain,” Coble promised.
Then he turned to a small contingent of Miller’s Ferry firefighters who stood quietly to the side as he spoke to the Monroes.
“Guys,” Coble said, addressing those firefighters, “thanks again for all you do.”
Teri Welch, one of Coble’s aides who traveled with him Tuesday, said the congressman planned to call Salisbury Fire Chief Robert Parnell.
But Welch said Coble wouldn’t stop by the fire department’s headquarters because it’s not included in his district.
While most of Rowan County is in the 6th District, Salisbury is not. Welch said the other reason that Coble wouldn’t stop at the Salisbury headquarters was because Victor’s body has long since been transported to New York.
Welch said Coble was concerned that any expression of sympathy he offered not be perceived as an attempt on his part for political grandstanding.
That’s why, Welch said, Coble’s Tuesday meeting with the Monroes was done with little fanfare.
She said Coble’s office had in recent weeks received a number of phone calls from teenagers interested in pursuing careers in firefighting, inspired in large part, Welch said, by tributes they’d heard to Justin.
Lisa said the Monroe family was as surprised as anyone when Justin developed ó at an early age ó such a love of firefighting.
He’s been involved with firefighting at Miller’s Ferry since he was an adolescent, having grown up through the department’s junior firefighting program.
In addition to working as a volunteer at Miller’s Ferry, Justin also worked part time for the Spencer and Salisbury fire departments.
Firefighting, his parents said, just seemed to be in Justin’s blood.
“There were no firefighters in our family,” Lisa said. “This was all a new experience to us.”
She said the Miller’s Ferry Fire Department volunteers became like family to Justin.
“He got a lot of encouragement from the people here,” Lisa said.
She said she and Eddie have been overwhelmed by the outpouring of support from Rowan County and far beyond. They’ve heard, Lisa said, from people around the country and world.
“We want to publicly thank everyone,” Lisa said.
She said U.S. Senator Elizabeth Dole (R-N.C.) called the family to express her regrets and tell them that a document honoring Justin and Victor would be read in Congress. A copy would be sent to the Monroes, Dole promised.
“From the smallest kids to the highest people, they’ve all called or sent cards,” Lisa said. “We appreciate everything that people are doing.
“We just want to say thank you.”
Contact Steve Huffman at 704-797-4222 or shuffman@salisburypost.com.