My very first encounter with Chief Alan Brunacini was not what I would have hoped for. I was attending my first FDIC and was sitting through a presentation on how to submit articles to become a Fire Engineering author. Being the introvert that I am, I naturally sat in the back row while taking notes. Chief Lasky had already set the fire under my tuchas two days earlier to make a difference, so I wanted all the info I could gather. About 15 minutes into the panel discussion and older gentleman wearing a brightly colored shirt shuffles in and sits next to me (leaving a polite empty chair between us). Not long after taking a seat, he fishes through his pocket to produce a small nail clipper – which he begins to use. I take all of about 20 seconds of this before I lean over and say “sir, do you mind?” – I’m sure my face was saying “dude, for Christ’s sake, STOP!” As fate would have it, I called enough attention to the incident that Bill Manning (the head of Fire Engineering at the time), noticed the gentleman and said to all – “What a pleasure. Chief Brunacini – come on up and join us.”
I knew the esteemed name of Chief Brunacini and the importance of his lessons, now I had met the man – I sunk as far as 6’1″ could in an awkward plastic chair!
After the presentation I was slinking out of the room trying to be as inconspicuous as possible when I felt a gentle slap on my back – I turned – and Chief Brunacini was standing there chuckling. Not a word was said… just those fatherly eyes… that snarky smile… and the quiet understanding that I was a novice in the land of legends.
Nearly 14 years would pass before I would have an opportunity to teach at a conference with Chief Brunacini, and be honored to sit with him during a Q&A panel. Me… with Chief Brunacini … with Capt. Gagliano… talking fire (sound smart, sound smart, sound smart…)!
I have a few more stories, but I share this one because of what it represents about the man and his mission – about his legacy. Take time to learn, to practice, to share, and to give. Take the moments that life gives you and learn from them, grow from them, and then move on to the next moment. He died doing what he loved to do, and knowing that makes me smile.
This cartoon isn’t much, but it’s a small gesture to a larger than life man. Simply said, thank you for everything you gave us, Chief – we will pass it forward.
2014 North Carolina Firefighter’s Conference