It was one month ago today that my brothers Vinny Perez and Tony Valerio
sacrificed their lives at a house fire in Diamond Heights. They were working on
Engine 26 that day, Vinny as the officer and Tony as the paramedic-firefighter,
when they were dispatched at 10:45 AM to what seemed like a routine call–
but at 11:06 they were engulfed in a flashover and went into cardiac arrest. By
11:09 the window of opportunity to be brought back closed forever, and they
were gone from this world, just like that. What had started out just like any other
ordinary day had suddenly become the most extraordinary day of their lives,
and a very surreal and painful one for those they left behind.
Looking back now on the time we had together, all those mundane moments we
shared seem so precious. Hanging around the firehouse telling stories, getting
through the routine of our days; suddenly and predictably, being called to help
resolve the practical matters to help people get through their crises, and moving
on to whatever came next; waving and ringing the bell for children while driving
the engine down the street, saying hello to a neighbor walking their dog past
the firehouse; cooking meals together in the kitchen, requiring every bit as much
teamwork as needed to put out a fire or manage a critical medical patient; being
there to keep eachother company through it all, and watch each other’s backs.
The sacred doesn’t shun the ordinary. Every opportunity we have to be with the
people we love, to do the things that we love to do, must not be squandered–
because someday they will all be gone. And that day will arrive way too soon to
waste time being stressed out or hating. Sometimes life is frustrating or painful.
That just indicates there’s work to be done, to transcend problems or heal our-
selves. We can avoid the work and spend the rest of our time in hell, or get on
with it and restore ourselves to heaven. Vinny and Tony never avoided work, and it
always seemed to me that they did a pretty damn good job of loving their lives.
That we should all be as lucky, to be able to have that said of us after we’re gone.