A firefighter stood guard over a large silver bell and LeeComm called out a final page for Fort Madison Firefighter Eric Kern Saturday morning.
Kern, who served over three decades with the Fort Madison Fire Department, was laid to rest in a private burial after a public funeral at Fort Madison High School. A processional through town passed the Fort Madison Fire Department and up Rodeo hill gave those along the route a final chance to salute.
Police stood guard at intersections with fingertip to eyebrow as first responders from around the state rolled through Fort Madison in honor and memory of their brother.
Fort Madison Fire Chief Joey Herren remembered Kern as a friend and a member of his department's family. The two coached sports together and raised children together. When Herren said he was losing a friend, you could see this man of confidence - a confidence that's demanded when lives are on the line - meant it, and was shaken.
I didn't know Capt. Kern except if I saw his name reflecting in red on the bottom of his bunker gear at structure fires or vehicle accidents over the past six years.
Some on the Fort Madison Fire Department I know very well, some I know on a casual basis, and some I haven't had a chance to meet and engage with. Capt. Kern was the latter.
At Saturday's funeral that became a circumstance of misfortune. This man enjoyed a Busch Light I found out from the service. And he apparently was an 80s rock man. Kansas, Guns N' Roses, Led Zeppelin.
We had much in common except I prefer to capture the fire from afar, while he preferred to capture it literally. I take the photos of the accident while he took the victim's hand.
Heaven is full of heroes, but the Kern family sent their father, son, brother, uncle, and grandfather on Monday, Jan. 31 to join the ranks of those God must hold just a bit closer - those who dedicated their lives in service of others.
It brought a smile to the wet cheeks of those who filled the west stands of the FMHS gym when it was revealed by his sister Shelley that this brave firefighter of 33 years - a man whose job was to respond to the worst of situations and face treachery at a moment's notice - had a fear of spiders.
One would imagine that fear was quickly set aside when he walked up to, and then into, a strange structure full of smoke and flames.
It defines a community at its core when we lose someone we've counted on for decades to be there for us when times are their worst. But there's some solace that a community turns out in full force, and the brotherhood of firefighters, police, and first responders line a hall and stand in attention to honor a man fallen in the line of duty.
It's a crazy colloquialism that a picture speaks a thousand words. Sometimes the words have to do the work. But in this Sunday's Beside the Point we're going to add the pictures, too.
Godspeed Capt. Kern.
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