Right now, flags are flying at half mast at Rockford fire stations, to honor nine firefighters struck down in the line of duty halfway across the country. Though the distance between here and Charleston, South Carolina is great, the shared bond between all firefighters bridges any distance.
"With us it really hits home. Something that we take for granted every day, when we come to work we expect to go home and I'm sure those nine guys did as well," says Rockford firefighter and paramedic, John McGee.
To keep them alive day in and out, firefighters go through rigorous training to handle any situation and equip themselves with detailed knowledge of the construction of all Rockford buildings, so they know what they'll be stepping into in case of an emergency.
The men in South Carolina died when the roof of the flaming warehouse they were in caved in on them. Local firefighters say they're less likely to be trapped in a situation like that if they know in advance the strength of the building. But no matter what, if there are victims inside, just like in South Carolina, they're going in.
"We risk a little to save a little, risk a lot to save a lot. If there are viable lives that need to be saved then we will will take on that challenge," says Rockford Fire District Chief, Jim Strey.
But for now, firefighters everywhere have challenge enough to keep their spirits up until duty calls again.
"It kind of makes everybody just slow down, catch their breath, hug their kids and hopefully it never happens here," says McGee.
So far this year, 53 firefighters have died on the job across the United States and more than 20,000 have been injured. District Chief Strey says that's standard. It's part of his job to accept that one firefighter will likely die every three days nationwide.