More than a thousand emergency personnel worked together this week to honor one of their own.
Firefighter Jeff Little came home to his final resting place this week, with funerals in his adopted city of Waycross, Georgia, and his hometown of Sylacauga, with an honor guard of his emergency services brethren standing at attention at overpasses all along the way. His procession home passed under flag-draped arches formed by ladder trucks in Macon, Oxford and Talladega, and hundreds lined the streets as he was taken through Childersburg.
Childersburg is where he worked for his first 17 years in emergency services. He worked his way up through the ranks to become a firefighter captain, and director of the department’s emergency medical services and haz-mat operations. If you had an emergency, he was the kind of person you wanted to respond to your call.
After 12 years in Waycross, Lt. Little answered his last call a week ago. After he and fellow firefighters put out a fire in an unoccupied house, the ceiling collapsed on him as he was checking for remaining hot spots.
In the day-to-day routine of the job, firefighters, emergency medical technicians and law enforcement officers don’t think of themselves as heroes. They accept the risks as part of what it takes to get the job done to protect the lives and property of the public they serve.
Statistically, firefighting has become a safer profession, thanks in large part to better equipment and better training. The number of firefighter deaths on the job has actually declined over the past several years, and the most frequent cause of death is heart attacks. But all risks can’t be eliminated; all dangers can’t be foreseen.
Jeff Little made the ultimate sacrifice in service to others.
Little’s family and friends will always feel the sorrow of his loss. Hopefully they can also take some comfort in knowing he died doing what he wanted to do, and carry with them some measure of pride from seeing how much he was valued by other heroes, the other first responders who accept the risks of their jobs to help others.