On a chilly November morning, Greg Ewing put on his Red Cross volunteer vest, and prepared to honor a hero. Greg, a Red Cross Disaster Action Team volunteer, had never met the man whose funeral he was attending, but vividly knew his face. “I had seen him so many times on the news, covered in soot and dirt from saving someone’s life,” he said.
Captain Herbert Johnson or better known by his friends and fellow firefighters as ‘Herbie,’ was the first in his engine company to run inside a burning apartment building in Gage Park. The family inside survived, but Captain Herbert perished. This past month, Herbie was honored as a Red Cross Hero for his bravery and dedication to public service. Greg Ewing was blown away by his unforgettable experience at the Captain’s funeral.
“I just couldn’t believe how many people were there,” said Greg about the service. The streets of 75th and Western were almost unrecognizable, filled with a sea of firefighters, cadets, and Chicagoans paying their respect to a man described as ‘larger than life.’ Hundreds of people attended the funeral to honor the fallen firefighter and hero. “Everyone there admired and praised him for being an amazing person and fireman.” The outpouring of support for Captain Herbie and his family came as no surprise for Greg, but a show of unexpected gratitude towards him at that moment touched him.
The Red Cross volunteer vest that he was proudly wearing caught the attention of several funeral attendees and firefighters. “I was approached by so many people thanking me for everything the Red Cross does for people whose lives are altered in devastating fires,” Greg explained. Even a Fire Captain, paused to shake his hand and thank him for the impressive work the Red Cross does in the city. “Right after a fire occurs, it’s normally the fire station that calls us to help; we are the first point of reference they give the families,” he said. In the Greater Chicago Region, the American Red Cross Disaster Action Teams help assist victims of home fires every day. That November morning, a Red Cross volunteer was able to honor a Chicago hero and receive a heartfelt reminder of the impact the Red Cross has on the city. Greg Ewing left the funeral of Captain Herbert Johnson knowing that the city of Chicago is truly appreciative of firefighters like Herbie and other Red Cross volunteers like himself.
Written by: Alyssa Barford