As promised in my previous post, below is the speech I gave at the Florida Professional Firefighter Convention last month. Although we continue to grieve, we now have a new focus – making sure Ralf’s death was not in vain. This is what he would have wanted. Let’s spread the word – it all starts with awareness!
I would like to start by thanking everyone for the opportunity to address you today. I ask you for your patience and understanding in advance if I should become emotional, which these days often happens without warning.
For those of you who don’t know who I am, allow me to introduce myself. My name is Maeghan Garcia and I am the widow of the late Ralf Garcia, a beloved and well-respected City of Miami Fireman who lost his life suddenly and tragically to brain cancer less than three months ago. I was 7 months pregnant with our first, and now only, child together at the time. Although I am still very much grieving the loss of my husband and father to my son, and always will be, I stand before you today because I have made the decision to find meaning and purpose during the most difficult time of my life. Anyone who knew my husband personally knows that he always stood for what was right and always went above and beyond to help others, especially his loved ones and his brothers and sisters in the fire department. Now that he is no longer here physically, it is my goal and mission to help carry on that legacy for him. I believe with all my heart that Ralf would have wanted to do whatever possible to stop our tragedy from reoccurring and devastating more families. One widow, one baby boy who will never know his father, one father and one mother who had to bury their son – these are all one too many.
I am here today to deliver a very simple message: something needs to change. Ralf knew the necessary risks and dangers he would be facing when he made the decision to answer his vocation to become a paramedic and fireman. I don’t think, however, that he, nor any other firefighter, should have to lose his or her life due to an avoidable, unnecessary risk. These men and women who put their lives on the line for the people of their community need to be better protected. How do we better protect them? By increasing awareness of the rising number of firefighters being diagnosed with cancer, by adapting the culture and practice of these civil servants to enhance their ability to better protect themselves, by providing them the necessary tools and/or equipment needed to do so, and by pushing for firefighter safety and cancer presumption legislation. This task can only be successfully executed if approached and attacked by a unified body – of firefighters, firefighter families, administrative personnel of all ranks, concerned citizens – out to accomplish a common goal: to do everything possible to prevent one more spouse, one more child, one more set of parents from experiencing the unexplainable, unrelenting heartache and emptiness that myself, my son, Ralf’s parents and our entire family must now live on a daily basis. It is our responsibility and our duty. Let us rise up to the challenge.