As I was returning from a concert in Boone, NC in early April, I decided to post a status update on The “Model City” Firefighter Facebook page to see if any firefighters in the area that followed the site were on-duty, and may be interested in giving me a quick tour. I don’t typically drop in, but with nothing but positive experiences with brothers and sisters from North Carolina… I figured it was worth a shot.
As I was finishing up a late breakfast and shopping around at a few antique shops in the area, I received a short Facebook message from a brother by the name of Travis Gryder with Blowing Rock Fire & Rescue stating that he was on shift if I wanted to stop by. Having passed by this beautiful station in the mountains numerous times, I couldn’t pass up the chance to stop. One of the many amazing things that the fire service has to offer is that I can be invited in by a follower of the site, and immediately get to know someone who was a complete stranger just 10 minutes before.
On this day… it was Travis Gryder.
A clean cut young man grinning from ear to ear met us outside as we pulled into the parking lot. After a quick introduction, Travis was off showing me all of the phenomenal equipment the department had, the cache of tools, his leather helmet, and even projects that the firefighters had built/worked on to outfit the station with.
It didn’t take long to realize this guy GETS IT!
He continued to tell me the many of the unique challenges/responses the department has as we continued throughout the fire station. The day room and kitchen were spotless, the bunk rooms were organized, and I don’t believe there was a part of the station that he didn’t show off.
What had planned to be a short stop, ended up being nearly an hour of learning.
As I said, he taught me about the department, the area, and the PRIDE and LOVE for the job that he had.
Travis had been with Blowing Rock Fire & Rescue for 3 years, and was just 21 years old.
I received news yesterday that Brother Gryder was fatally injured in a motorcycle accident yesterday morning, and my heart sank into my chest. While I am not claiming to have known him very well, while I didn’t grow up with him, and while I only spent an hour or so with him on April 3rd… he made a lasting impression.
As I sit here and mourn for all his family, friends, co-workers, and brother and sister firefighters, I am thankful that I was able to talk shop with him, if only a few minutes. He smiled the entire time, and as I was leaving, he joined his crew for a water shuttle drill in the parking lot. It was very apparent that he was a sponge looking to soak up the knowledge of others.
Rest in Peace Brother. I look forward to catching up in the future…