Early June 2011, Engine 26 (San Francisco, CA Fire Department) responded to a house fire in Diamond Heights. While fighting the fire, two firefighters were critically injured and later died from their injuries. Lt. Vincent A. Perez and FF/PM Anthony M. Valerio were remembered & the Engine 26 crew honored by many thoughtful and generous neighbors, city officials and the larger firefighting community.
Engine 26 is my family's firehouse. Engine 26 protects our neighborhood. We've watched the Engine 26 crew many times from the window as they responded to emergencies, my kids once remarking how respectfully the firefighters interacted with one particularly challenging individual.
When I heard about Vinny & Tony, I wanted to do something. I tried to write a letter which turned into an email to one of the Engine 26 team "I truly have no words at this time." That was it. I could formulate nothing to say. The loss was so big I felt blank.
Occasionally over the following days a suitable sentence or phrase would form in my mind, but they did not accummulate into anything that seemed worth typing.
Instead, I painted a sign with the words "Dear Engine 26" and hung it on the fence. This became the start of my letter. I cut ribbons of Tyvek and with a sharpie wrote the phrases and sentences, tying the messaged Tyvek to the fence. I added an invitation for passersby to do the same and included a bag of Tyvek ribbons and a sharpie along with photos of Tony & Vinny.
Take a strip of tyvek and write your message, prayer, or memory to or about Engine 26.
Tie your tyvek ribbon to the fence.
Our messages will join together to create a piece of interactive art, an urban community offering in the style of the Japanese Wish Tree.
Day by day, the fence filled with Tyvek ribbons. The photo above was taken by Cheryl Friedman when there were just a few ribbons. Today, when the wind blows through the fence many ribbons dance as if they might tickle those passing by. I love hearing the rustle of the ribbons and wondering where the wind is carrying these messages:
Thank you for putting out all our fires. From: Ethan 5 years old
Thank you for taking care of my family and neighbors.
On behalf of Tony, Vinny, Engine 26 thank you from the bottom of our hearts. We are all family and we are proud to serve the people of Glen Park. Love, Dave Spencer Medic #833
Heroic Love. Thank you. Will miss you.
Thank you for coming to our house when we needed help.
Thank you for your bravery & sacrifice, for people you love. You make this a better world.
You sacrificed so much for us......It's such a shame that most of us never even know....thank you for your service. You put us before yourself.
I'm just someone walking by IDK but it's hard to think that you two are dead. Thanks anyway.
You will not be forgotten.
The world is not the same without you.
Thank you for all the risks you took and for your dedication.
A Jersey girl from Ft. Monmouth says thank you. XO
Thank you both guys for giving your heart, souls and lives for the good of your fellow man. You have our love. XOX
Nothing wrong with being a 'hippie'. Thank you for love and kindness and sense of community. Thank you for your life all our love for your families and ours. XOXO Rachel
Thanks and love for giving all there is. Godspeed.
I appreciate all that you do. Thanks for taking care of our families and neighbors. Every firefighter is a hero. This community is forever grateful for your service. You are not forgotten.
We love you firemen guys. Thank you for protecting our city. We owe you very big.
Thank you for thanklessly protecting our city. You are true superheros. Our dad is a firefighter.
We visited your firehouse today 7/2. Vinny and Tony you are loved. RIP
Red, vibrant, peace and strength. Your service is part of our community, our heart. So our heart back to you.
I like your job.
Thanks for the risks you take to make us safe.
Dear Engine 26:
Thank you. Always.