It is with profound sadness that I have to pass on the news that Philadelphia Firefighter Jack Slivinski of the elite unit Rescue 1 passed away this morning. It’s no stretch to say that Jack will be profoundly missed by everyone who knew him and who he leaves behind. When I got the news early this morning, an otherwise glorious day here in Philly turned dark and sad. My father, a retired Philly firefighter, reacted similarly. Although he didn’t know young Jack, he knows Jack’s father well – having worked with him over the course of his thirty-plus years on the job. That’s how things are in the world of professional firefighters. Friends are more than friends, family is extended over generations. I know Jack Sr. as well and know their family will be devastated as are his brothers in the department.
I first met young Jack shortly after he came on the job. It was right after another tragedy, the line of duty death of Lt. Derrick Harvey, Jack’s Lieutenant at the time. He died as a result of injuries received in a house fire that Jack barely survived himself. Having no permanent assignment at the time I was sent to fill in for Lt. Harvey. It was the very first shift after the tragic fire when we were dispatched to a dwelling fire. Jack and the rest of the members of his platoon went right back to work, charging straight into the fire without so much as a hesitation. I really couldn’t believe it. But somewhere deep down inside I knew they were doing it because of Lt. Harvey. They didn’t want to let him or his spirit down. Firefighters are that way. To a firefighter, the job will never be just that, a job. It is a deeply held calling. Jack lived the calling as does his father, as did mine and generations before them. I could tell right then and there Jack would be a great firefighter. I was right.
I knew Jack from work over the years. I’m too old and crabby to hang with the young, good-looking firemen. Mostly we would cross paths in the station or out on the street or often enough on fire grounds when his company, Rescue 1 showed up to provide much-needed help on some ass kicking job or other incident. It was always a pleasure to see him and we often laughed at whatever was going on. His easy-going nature and big smile was hard to miss. That’s why his loss will be so deeply felt throughout our small circle. The good guys are always gone too soon.
Recently Jack became famous for an unintended scandal: he posed shirtless for a charity calendar wearing his firefighter pants. As usual the department brass blew it wildly out of proportion and Jack was reprimanded.
Imagine trying to raise money for widows and getting into trouble for being too handsome? But the scandal became more of an embarrassment for the department when the media got wind of it. Jack’s big heart and pure intentions riled up the public so much the department had no choice but to rescind his transfer (but not without a slap on the wrist first). Whatever, it was the right thing to do and everyone supported Jack. I can say that it was my distinct pleasure to know Jack. I grieve for his family and friends as well. The world is a much sadder place today. Rest in peace brother. You will be missed.