Saturday, 12 January 2013

A very real ukulele hero - Ex-NY Firefighter sings "The Bravest"

Here is the most moving performance of a song I have seen in years. When you read the context, you'll see why.

For the weekly "Season" contest on the UU Underground, the theme this week is "Back to Work". Kurt Siegel sang and played a song by Tom Paxton called "The Bravest". He has kindly allowed me share it with you, complete with his own introduction.

"This is my last one for this season, and is a bonus, therefore not eligible for judging.

Not my best work, but very, very hard to do. I've referred to it as "a little too close to home", and you'll see why.

As part of this season, Ginny asked that we try to do songs that have to do with our professions. And to explain what we do.

While I currently am employed as a barista, I am a retired Firefighter. In the course of my duties, I was also a member of the Upstate New York Urban/Technical Search and Rescue Team. I even designed the Team Logo!

The folks who trained us were members of the New York City FEMA team - truly the Elite. They worked with us as we learned the tools, the terminology, the basics. We got more proficient as the training went on, and had a response before we were technically ready to go, when a tornado rolled through the area. It was a sobering experience.

At one point during the training, one of the FDNY members made an off-hand remark that we thought was funny. "We'll be here any time you need us," he said. "But we're never going to have to call you guys. Unless, you know, the World Trade Centers collapse."

The Upstate NY team did respond to New York City on September 11, 2011. I was the EMS coordinator for my Fire Department, and was required to remain, making sure that we were covered in the event anything happened. After all, there were a number of High Priority sites right here: General Electric, two Nuclear Power Labs, and the State Capital less than 15 miles away.

My Chief released me on September 13, and I responded with the second group. We still didn't really know what we were walking into by then.

Tom Paxton wrote the song "The Bravest" on September 24, 2001. It had taken that long for many people, not just Tom, to be able to say, sing, or write what was slamming around inside of them. I first heard this song when Garrison Keillor sang it on "A Prairie Home Companion".

I cried.

As you'll see in the video, the song still makes me cry.

I did this as a one-take. I wouldn't be able to get through it again.

At the end of the video are some photographs. The first I got as part of a training class I was in some time after December 2001. The others are photos I took while I was on the site. There is no audio. Please don't watch all the way through if this might disturb you.

The final photo is a t-shirt back, with the names of our UTSAR instructors who we lost that day.

Thanks for putting up with me on this one.


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HI! I hope you enjoy this blog and I'd love to hear your comments! But I know you'll forgive me if I read them over before I click the "publish" button! Thanks!