This webinar features a discussion with Chief Scott Burnette and Deputy Chief Chris Budzinski of the Asheville Fire Department (NC) about a medical office building fire that killed Captain Jeffrey S. Bowen on July 28, 2011. Chiefs Burnette Budzinski discuss the incident, its aftermath, the impact it had and they offer insight into what happens when an incident commander suffers a line-of-duty death on their watch.
Grief Reveals Things About All of Us
By Stacy Bowen
Wife of Jeffrey S. Bowen
My name is Stacy Bowen, and I am the widow of Captain Jeff Bowen. Jeff lost his life fighting a four-alarm fire in a medical building on July 28, 2011. Jeff was a career firefighter. He always knew that he wanted to be a firefighter. I was not that lucky. I was not born with the intuition that I was going to be anything in particular.
I went to college as an adult and graduated at the age of 32 with my B.A. in Business. I enjoyed this and worked for the same company for 15 years. I was working for this company as a production supervisor when Jeff died. In the blink of an eye, everything I knew to be solid and sound was gone. My family, my life, my world would never be the same. We were forever changed. Have you read the book or seen the movie The Fault in Our Stars? The author, John Green, says, “Grief does not change you, Hazel. It reveals you.”
This statement is very poignant and resonates with me. I felt as if everything about me had disappeared and a new person had been unveiled. Out of this tragedy, some good began to grow. Just
like an epiphany, I knew what I needed to do with my life—social work.
I was struggling after Jeff’s death. I needed to make sense out of this tragedy. What was the purpose? I went back to school close to my home, at Mars Hill University, and received my bachelor’s degree in Social Work on May 7, 2016. School as an adult learner is much different than school as a traditional age college student. Traditional college students come from all over the country and are together for a short span of time. Adult learners are part of the community; they live there, and most already work there. When adult learners build relationships, these are longstanding relationships. They do not disappear after graduation.
Choosing the path of social work for me is a calling. I feel inside the way Jeff would look when he would talk about being a firefighter. No, I didn’t know when I was eight that this would be my career, but I couldn’t love it any more.
Grief reveals things about all of us—our strength, our weakness, our passion, and our worst fears. But we as survivors can make the choice to say, “This is my process, and I will do it my way!”