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First Time As A Returning Survivor

In 2015 Dreama came back to the National Fallen Firefighters Memorial Weekend as a Returning Survivor. She shared her experiences in a recent issue of The Journey.

By Dreama Floersch, Wife of Richard J. Floersch (2013-TN)

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Last year I attended the 2014 National Fallen Firefighters Memorial Weekend as my husband, Capt. Richard J. Floersch, was honored along with 106 other fallen firefighters. Richard had a massive heart attack October 2, 2013, while on duty at the Milan (Tennessee) Fire Department and passed away.

Richard was a career captain with 36 ½ years of service. We were married for 33 years. My emotional state last year had me not remembering some things from Memorial Weekend. The feeling of being there and attending the Candlelight and the Memorial Services is hard to put into words. We honor families had lost our firefighters, and each of us had a story to tell.

Before leaving the Memorial Weekend last year, I knew that I wanted to come back as a returning survivor and volunteer to help. I wanted to pay it forward. The returning survivors know what the honor families are going through. They have been where we are now, and they are further along on this journey we are on. Last year some never said a word, but you could tell they understood and knew how we felt. Others comforted us and wiped away our tears and gave us hugs.

After making the long trip back this year as a returning survivor I did some things that I didn’t know if I would ever get to do. I went to the NFFF and got to meet some more of the staff. I helped put batteries in the candles used for the Candlelight Service, helped with t-shirts, and got to see the flags for the 2015 Memorial Service brought into the Memorial Chapel. I also helped with the goody bags for the honor families, the plaque rubbing/banner signing, and lighting the Remembrance Candle during the Candlelight Service. I wanted to help any way I could.

Some of the returning survivors comforted me when my tears flowed, gave me tissues when I needed them, held my hand, and gave me hugs and encouragement and support. I appreciated that so much. We shared our stories about our firefighters and things that have happened to us and how we each find ways to get through this very difficult time in our lives. One returning survivor, Gail Fowler (1997-NY), sat down with me, and we talked for a couple of hours. Gail and others taking the time to talk and listen means a lot to me.

Friday, October 2, 2015, was two years since Richard had passed away, and I knew that I wanted to be at the Memorial Weekend, surrounded by those who were going through what I am and who “get it.” I hope that maybe I helped a couple of the honor families understand that I “get it.” I will never get over it, but I am getting through it with the help of others. At the Memorial Weekend as a first-time returning survivor, I saw things I didn’t remember from last year and was able to volunteer to help and pay it forward. It helps me to help others.

I appreciate so much all of those returning survivors, the NFFF and staff, and others who were there for me. I now know that I am not alone on this journey, that others are there with me. I am now a returning survivor. At first I didn’t understand using the words “survivor” and “journey.” I understand now; we are survivors, and we are on this journey together.

May Our Fallen Firefighters Always Be Remembered and Never Forgotten.