Franklin Countys First News

Letter to the Editor: ‘Thanks’ is not enough

Where can I find the words to express the gratitude of the Farmington Fire Rescue Department to our community? Thank You simply falls short. Many of you have asked us “How are you doing?” The answer is different for each of us who has experienced this explosion and the aftermath of Sept. 16. We will be forever changed by the experience, but I believe we will be stronger in the times to come. For me, I feel even closer to my brothers/sisters on the department. Having suddenly lost a brother firefighter and seeing many others seriously injured makes me value the blessing of each day. What helps me and the other firefighters is the tremendous outpouring of support from the community we serve. For every tear we have shed, we have received a hundred hugs from friends and strangers alike. Keep them coming!

The response from fire departments statewide was quick and continuous. This allowed our department to morn our loss, regroup and more forward to a new normal. Departments, both professional and volunteer filled out station day and night, no questions asked other than “how can we help?" A special thanks to Westbrook firefighter Gerry Pineao, who expertly organized the fire station activities. Truly a brotherhood. They knowing that if the loss had been theirs, we’d be there for them.

The community support was simply amazing. The firefighter crews were fed 3 meals a day, the menus ranging from gourmet to comfort food. It arrived from area restaurants, pizza & sandwich shops, UMF food services, church kitchens, the American Legion, pies & cookies from grandmothers, casseroles from many kitchens, the list goes on. Sunday dinners became a real family celebration, with firefighters bringing their families, mutual aid fire members and well-wishers from the area. A great time to share and heal. The prayer shawls, and knitted afghans were very special. The cards, banners, ornaments, flowers and framed pictures were special. Such an outpouring has renewed my faith in the goodness in people.

Our thoughts continue to the family of Michael Bell, and to the injured firefighters and their families as they heal. Also, we continue to send our thoughts and prayers to Larry Lord and his family as he continues his treatment. We continue to track and support the resettlement of the displaced families. We celebrate the recovery of the LEAP organization, now relocated to new offices. What great & caring staff.

The generosity of the public in monies donated to our Benevolent Association and to the town’s Disaster Relief Fund is simply amazing, as are the many individual fund-raising efforts in the area. To those who donated dollars in the boot at the firemen’s fairground food booths, thanks. To those who donated dollars to my popcorn and hot chocolate sales in the grandstands during truck pulls and demo derby, you are the best! Rest assured that your giving will help the affected firefighter families, those families displaced by the explosion and to the support of Larry Lord and his family.

Among the many people we need to thank include: those civilians who responded to the scene and showed great courage by jumping to in to assist our injured, to the members of NorthStar Ambulance who’s triage and swift transport saved lives; to the highway and parks & rec staffs who helped in park cleanup and road clearing; the municipal office staff who kept municipal services running while under real pressure, to the Farmington police, campus police, Sheriff Nichols & deputies, state police who responded; to the mutual aid fire departments who responded; to the staff of Franklin Savings Bank who staffed our food booths at the fair, to the County Commissioners who are sharing the County EMA director and his deputy with the town, thank you all.

To the State Police Honor guard team who provided escorts, to the Fire Chief’s Association- L.A.S.T. response team, the peer support counselors, Portland Fire Department support for families around the clock at MMC, the Portland Burn Foundation, the nursing, surgical and rehab staff at MMC, to Ron Morin of Sugarloaf Rescue Vehicles for transportation, many thanks. To the Maine D.O.T. sign shop for the tribute signs to Capt. Bell, and commemorative lic plates. To the suppliers of our buttons and mourning badge ribbons, t-shirts, window decals and wrist bands.

To the Maine Federation of Firefighters for a very moving annual memorial service in Augusta on Oct. 5th. For the many citizen, including UMF staff and students, who lined the roads and streets to salute the return of Capt. Bell to his family, Thanks. Also, to the kindness and care extended by the Wiles staff. To those who came to the station to celebrate and cheer the returns of our injured firefighters, thanks to all.

Often forgotten are the county 911 dispatchers who handled a most challenging event, handling the many calls for assistance, sending help, and coordinating resources, all by remote control. They are the FIRST, first responders. Thank you for being there for us at all hours of the day and night.

There are three standout persons who showed their strength in this event. Town Manager Richard Davis, Police Chief Jack Peck and Acting Fire Chief Tim Hardy displayed particular professional demeanor and calm leadership under very trying circumstances. We are fortunate to have them.

My personal thanks to our own Gov. Janet Miles for the tribute she gave to first responders and recognizing the courage of Chief Terry Bell, there in person in the chamber gallery, as part of her state-of-the-state presentation. So very touching.

Hats off to the Michael Bell family, who recently gave compelling legislative testimony on the need to expand Maine’s “Dig Safe” laws concerning digging around LP gas lines. Rep. Landry & Sen. Black were co-sponsors of the bill to offer greater protection to avoid such explosions as we suffered in Farmington.

To the Odd Fellows and Rebekah’s organization, who sponsored Firefighter Patty Cormier and myself for a great experience in attending the annual Rose Bowl Parade in Pasadena, Ca. Their float celebrated the contributions of all first responders, for which we are most appreciative.

In the days and months to come, we will continue to regain and strengthen our ability to provide fire & rescue services for the community we love. When you need us, we will be there! FARMINGTON STRONG.

Stephan Bunker
Farmington
Selectman & member of Farmington Fire Rescue Family

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3 Responses »

  1. ♥️♥️♥️ and very well.said.

    thank you
    Steve Bunker.

  2. Thank you Steve for all YOU have done in the wake of this tragedy. My family recognizes your commitment and strength and are so very appreciative of the time you have spent with us. I was also relieved to hear you'd also be giving testimony on the dig safe law, and I wasn't going to stand up there alone. We can never thank you enough for the caring and respect you have shown my family. You are an amazing brother and friend.

  3. Our community has grown from this tragedy and the responses from so many made us all so proud. Thank you for these words of thanks. We are Farmington Strong and so blessed to live in such a caring and wonderful community !

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