Sunday, 8 March 2015. I first saw the news of your death on Facebook, followed by the various news sites and Twitter.
No one has mentioned your name; you are as anonymous in death as you were a nameless brave hero battling fires this past week, as they ravaged our beautiful province.
I don’t know anything about you, and yet, through the stories I have read online from people on the frontline and your fellow firefighters, I know you are an extraordinary human being, who pushed yourself beyond the limits of exhaustion and personal safety in order to save the lives and property of people you didn’t know. I know that millions of my fellow South Africans KNOW you for the selfless hero you are.
I don’t think any of us will know the true horror of what you and your colleagues have faced this past week – but I caught a glimpse over the past few days after Pierre Brophy, an airport firefighter, got in touch via Instagram when he saw I posted a photo of him, his colleague Yoland O’Ryan and their monster firefighting truck parked on the side of the road, close to Newlands Forest.
Since then, we’ve been chatting via Whatsapp almost daily, and through Pierre’s words I have discovered the humans behind that brave firefighting face, and heard just how difficult, how intense, how exhausting everything was, and ultimately what heroes you all are.
When I took that photo on the side of the road, Pierre and his crew had pulled over because they were just too tired to carry on driving back to base. They had pushed themselves to breaking point – and yet, later that day they were back at the frontline, and would continue to fight for another four days, until the last of the flames were finally put out.
But today, another flare up took you back into the war zone, and claimed your life as you tried to stop more devastation from happening. You gave your life helping others – and for that, nothing will ever extinguish our respect and admiration for you.
Rest in peace, brave hero.
© Dave Luis 2015. All Rights Reserved.
Featured image by Working On Fire
UPDATE: The late pilot’s name has been released. Rest in peace, our hero Bees Marais.