If you're looking for the definition of courage, a good place to start would be along Houston's Southwest Freeway back on May 31, where a burning hotel and restaurant took the lives of four Houston area firefighters and injured five more.
Most of us see a fire like that, and our first instinct is to run away, to get out, partially because it's what we are taught, but mostly because we are scared.
For Captain EMT Matthew Renaud, Engineer Operator EMT Robert Bebee, Firefighter EMT Robert Garner and Probationary Firefighter Anne Sullivan, along with the rest of the First Responders that day, their first instinct was to run into the fire, partially because as firefighters it's what they're taught, but mostly because whatever fear they may have felt was overridden by a sense of duty and a selfless desire to help and save others.
Running into a fire. Does it get any more courageous than that?
As we go forward, celebrating the memory of the fallen does matter, but from a purely practical standpoint, families of all four departed and the families of the injured are left behind to deal with not only the emotional fallout, but the financial fallout as well.
It's here where you can help give back to those who gave up the most, and it happens this Saturday.
Tomorrow afternoon at 4 p.m. at Memorial City Mall, the Houston Police Department and the Houston Fire Department will be squaring off in a "Guns vs Hoses" charity hockey game to raise money for the families of the fallen and injured firefighters. Additionally, there will be a public skate before (1:30 p.m. to 3:45 p.m.) and after (5:45 p.m. to 7 p.m.) the game.
Tickets to the game are $10 as are tickets to the public skate sessions, and all are available at the door.
When a tragedy like this hits, oftentimes people wonder exactly what the families involved and left behind receive, and certainly there are many benefits that will come from the city. However, not everything will be covered. The goal of this game is completely about raising money for these families, and along those lines, 100 percent of the proceeds from the game will go directly to them.
In addition to the proceeds from the game itself, there are several amazing auction items that have been donated to raise even more money, including autographed footballs from several Houston Texans, a soccer ball autographed by the Houston Dynamo, rounds of golf at a couple of different area clubs, a private beer tasting, a Brett Hull autographed hockey jersey and a Bobby Hull autographed hockey stick.
When the tragic events of May 31 occurred, HPD and HFD quickly worked together to organize this event, and according to Senior Police Officer Don Egdorf, a second-generation HPD officer of 12 years, the game is symbolic of a larger bond between the two departments:
"[The police] wanted to do this event is because we love the firemen. When we get hurt, they help take care of us. The bottom line is that we are all in this together and always want to take care of each other."
Like Egdorf, Mike Crellin is a second-generation police officer. He's been with HPD for six years and has watched his father protect the citizens of Houston for 32 years. He echoes the sentiment of togetherness between the two forces:
"We are all First Responders. We're a family. We all willingly go into dangerous scenes to protect the citizens of Houston and often work together. They also answer our calls for help and we answer theirs. If were all on a scene and the scene is over, we always part with 'stay safe out there' knowing and respecting how dangerous each profession is."
While the mission of this event is to raise as much money as possible for the families of the firefighters lost and injured on May 31, at its core, this is still a sporting event, and we are still talking about a bunch of ultra-competitive alpha dogs. Egdorf said the game Saturday promises to capture that competitive spirit:
"Our hockey teams have played many times over the last few years and it is always competitive, and sometimes a little over the top. We are mostly beer league players but some played in college."
The flyer for the game says, "Today, We're On The Same Team." Ostensibly, it refers to the police and fire departments, the two combatants in the game, but in the bigger picture it really could refer to all of us. The chances to return the favor to the brave men and women who serve as police officers and firefighters are few and far between.
Saturday, in Houston, we get that opportunity. Hope to see you there.
Listen to Sean Pendergast on 1560 Yahoo! Sports Radio from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. weekdays and nationally on the Yahoo! Sports Radio network Saturdays from 10 a.m. to noon CST. Also, follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/SeanCablinasian.