Earlier this morning word spread of the death of San Francisco Firefighter and Paramedic Anthony Valerio. Tony, as many called him, was found inside a residential structure fire near deceased Fire Lieutenant Vincent Perez.
Tony was a friend of mine, my first medic partner when I was hired with the SFFD back in 2002. We were assigned to the Richmond District and I clearly recall meeting him, his mustache and ponytail and thinking to myself “What have I gotten myself into?”
Tony’s laugh and sense of humor were infectious. When you came in and found your name assigned to the medic unit, the sigh of frustration would immediately turn to a cheer when Tony’s name appeared directly beneath your own.
He was always quick with a story of traveling the world, cultures far away or just a little something from his weekends or days off kayaking or running.
I lost touch with Tony soon after the Department shifted from 24 hour ambulances to 10 hour ambulances and we were all scattered into the wind assignments wise. But every time I saw him he would make a point of talking to everyone at a drill or class and being genuinely interested in anything they had to say.
Yesterday, still coming to terms with the fact one of my co-workers was dead and another staring the grim reaper in the face, I could hear Tony’s voice in my head…speaking French. He would switch from French to English, laugh, then shoot me an awkward smile as if to wonder if I had understood what he had said. Then I heard the voice of my deceased Grandmother, who had a similar sense of humor and who would also often throw in a few words of French. The two of them were having a conversation and it was driving me mad. Then, when I realized it was me just coming to terms with Tony’s condition, I almost saw that smile of his again, then the voices were gone.
The San Francisco Fire Department has lost 2 brave men who didn’t get into this line of work for fame, fortune or selfishness, but because it was simply what they did.
LODD – Lt Vincent Perez – Engine 26
LODD – FF/PM Anthony Valerio – Engine 26