as told to Pastor Rhonda Bostrom
This October, it will be 25 years that Chad Roof has served on the Lincoln Fire Department. Recently Chad was given the Fire Chief’s Award of Excellence for his leadership over the last year in assisting with the implementation of operational strategies on the fire ground. The calling to serve in this way runs in the family as Chad’s grandfather was a firefighter for the Lincoln Fire Department for 30 years, “Watching him as I grew up, I knew it was always a neat job. My first assignment as a newly promoted Captain in 2005 was on Engine #10. This is the same Fire Station that my grandfather retired from.”
Pastor Rhonda Bostrom asked Chad some questions about his career, faith and calling. This is what Chad had to say.
RB: How has faith influenced your work?
CR: Realistically, some things I’ve seen in fire fighting have made me question my faith. I’ve seen the difficulty when people face tragedy and they don’t have faith. They seem so lost and alone. I’ve also seen people who have faith. When tragedy comes, people who have faith – it’s a comfort for them, knowing that God walks with them during this time. When I was younger on the department, I questioned faith a lot. Over time, I see faith as more of a comfort. Being able to be with people in their time of need, it’s a gift that I have. When it’s stressful, firefighters have muscle memory to be able to function in an extremely stressful environment. Faith helps me have a calm mind. Faith makes me feel like I have somebody with me. I’ve had a couple of close calls and always feel like I’m spared for a reason. I’ve also always enjoyed working with the homeless population. I know I can make a huge impact in their life. When people are truly struggling, they are more open to the discussion. It’s a good feeling to help them.
RB: You and your family have been a part of Sheridan for over a decade. What have been your highlights?
CR: Growing up, I went to a Berean Church and my wife Vanessa grew up Catholic. We had a difficult time searching for a church that met both of our spiritual needs. When our son went to Sheridan Child Development Center, we started coming to Sheridan. The highlight has been watching our family grow here. It’s a big church, but we have met good friends through small groups, VBS and children’s programming.
RB: You served as a firefighter following 9-11, what was that experience like?
CR: It was surreal seeing it on TV and then being placed on alert to go right away. We were one of the first crews there on recovery aside from the Fire Department of New York (FDNY). When we arrived at the airport there were 20 police officers escorting our bus from the airport to Ground Zero. Along the road on our way to Ground Zero, there were families holding up signs of their loved ones that read, “Look for my son.” Or they had posters with the faces of their loved ones. At that point in my career I was a rescue specialist. Our work was to go in on the Ground Zero pile, and break up rubble and look for survivors or recovery. We worked 12 hour shifts on the pile of rubble, then 12 hours off. I worked the day shift. We were helping, but we also felt in the way sometimes as FDNY firefighters were there searching for loved ones for many days straight. If anything was located on the pile a whistle was blown. FDNY members would then retrieve the located item draped with a flag. Every person on the site would pay tribute to whatever was found. On our 12 hours off, we were tasked with responding to emergencies for FDNY. When the towers fell, many firefighters in the FDNY perished in the collapse, so the city was short staffed on firefighters. So we assisted FDNY with response as needed for Technical Rescue if the call arose. We stayed 10 days. I have a lot of flashback memories. It was a very overwhelming experience.
RB: Are there any memories that specifically stand out for you?
CR: Something that stood out to me, was talking to an elderly FDNY battalion chief. He was probably in his 80’s. He was dressed in his full firefighting ensemble. He had two sons whom were firefighters for FDNY missing in the pile of rubble. You just knew looking at him and at the pile that no one was coming out alive. It was also a powerful moment, for the FDNY, there are many generations in the department. While work was being completed on the pile you could hear bag pipes that were playing at close by funerals. After the funerals they would march the families through a small corner of the site just to let them see the devastation. This was a means to show the families that there truly is no hope for their loved ones to still be alive.
Chad Roof is living out his vocation through his work as a firefighter. How powerful and moving it is to see someone saying yes to God’s call in their life! How might you listen to where God is calling you? How can we live out our faith daily through our work?