With duty done, a bell called them home

Friday, September 16, 2011
The family of Buford Delwin Lee is honored during a ceremony to remember Lee and another firefighter who was lost in the line on duty.

Three times the bell rang -- a soft chime that drifted over the silent crowd at the Tennessee Fire Service and Codes Enforcement Academy late Saturday afternoon in Deason.

The bell, they said, was calling two firefighters home, telling them their shift had ended, their duty was done.

The two firefighters were Buford Delwin Lee, of Marshall County Emergency Management, and Jimmy Tuberville, of the Milledgeville Volunteer Fire Department, who gave up their lives in the line of duty in 2010.

"Today is about honoring the firefighters of Tennessee," said Ed Kay, chief of the Sparta Fire Department, who opened the ceremony. "It is especially -- and unfortunately -- about adding two names to the plaques."

In remembrance

Buford Delwin Lee, 66, of the Berlin Community, died while delivering water to a woman's home on Hatchett Hollow Road. Marshall County's Emergency Management Agency has a truck with a large water tank on its frame. The water is hauled to fires to increase supplies for pump trucks. It's also been the source of water for farmers and residents without water service. Lee was a volunteer firefighter with the Berlin Fire Department for nearly 20 years.

Milledgeville Fire Department Volunteer Fire Chief Jimmy Tuberville, 64, was working at the scene of a grass fire when he died of a heart attack. Tuberville was a fire service veteran of more than 20 years.

The bell ceremony was one of several held that day, part of "Everyone Goes Home" weekend at the academy. During the weekend, the academy offered safety classes to firefighters designed to prevent any more names from being added to the fallen firefighters list.

When the names of the fallen firefighters were called, their families were escorted to the plaques on the memorial plaza where their names had been added. Each family member laid a red rose at the base. Bagpipers, an honor guard and rows and rows of firefighters in dress uniform lent an air of solemnity and respect to the occasion.



The weekend also saw the dedication of a new statue to the Tennessee Fallen Firefighters Memorial, a work of art created by artist Scott Wise, who is himself a firefighter in Clarksville. One by one, representatives from firefighters, both paid and volunteer, from across the state stepped forward and left cloth badges of their departments at the statue's feet while it was still draped in a black, concealing cloth.

When Wise unveiled the statue, there was a moment of silence, then spontaneous applause as everyone took in the artist's work and its meaning. The statue is of a single firefighter in his full gear, holding his helmet over his chest and gazing down sadly.

Another monument, composed of concrete rubble and a bronzed I-beam from the World Trade Center, was dedicated to the memory of those firefighters who died on 9/11. It was not beautiful, said Brian Goss of the Brentwood Fire Department, nor was it supposed to be.

"We build statues and monuments to stir emotion," he said.

Gone, not forgotten

Goss stood sentinel by the monument and a wreath after the dedication. He told the crowd he had lost a friend and fellow firefighter at 9/11 -- one of the 343 who died when the World Trade Center towers collapsed.

Founded in 2002, the Tennessee Fallen Firefighter Memorial Committee comprises individuals from the various fire service organizations across Tennessee: Tennessee Fire Chiefs Association, Tennessee Fireman's Association, Tennessee Fire Service and Codes Enforcement Academy, the Tennessee Chapter of the International Association of Arson Investigators, Tennessee Federation of Fire Chaplains and the Tennessee Professional Firefighters Association.

The state donated the land for the memorial, but all other funds were raised through the hard work and dedicated efforts of the firefighters themselves, their friends and their families. Donations are still appreciated. For more information, visith www.tnffmemorial.com/.