Child walks into a firehouse and leaves fireman with an emotional memory. A firefighter must expect the unexpected at all times, even apparently when there are no flames present. Fdny Captain Jim Grizmer thought he was prepared for anything the day a threeyearold boy approached him on the job. The little boy had an emotional story to tell, one Jim hadn’t seen coming. Luckily for the boy, however, Jim wasn’t speechless for long. As soon as he heard the boy’s story, he knew exactly what he had to do.
Being a firefighter is a calling Jim’s father and uncle also pursued and is something deeply important to Jim, a calling that I don’t take lightly at all, he added. Even with two firefighters in the family, Jim wasn’t sure what he wanted to do with his life after high school.
It wasn’t until Jim was 21 and in his senior year of College at Osuego State that he discovered his passion for firefighting. I read a book about firefighters in the early 70s South Bronx, which happened to be a really tough time period, Jim said. The stories and perspectives from that book pushed me to become what I am today. The novel that spoke to Jim was Dennis Smith’s Report from Engine Co. 82.
It carried him through his first job with latter 13 in Yorkville, Illinois, in 1995. Now he works in the Upper East Side of New York. Across his 25 year career, Jim has worked tirelessly to achieve the rank of captain. For Jim, ascending is difficult, yet rewarding.
I’ve always wanted to challenge myself my whole career. Though these accolades are impressive, they aren’t the most important part of firefighting. For Jim, the most rewarding part of the job, according to Jim, is when he gets to save lives.
But what Jim didn’t realize was how much he inspires people as well. He learned just how inspiring he is when he met three year old Trucker Dukes. Trucker and the rest of his family live in Maui, Hawaii. When he was only 18 months old, Trucker was diagnosed with stage four neuroblastomum. His type of cancer mainly affects children five years old or younger, especially those under two. Trucker and his mother made regular tricks to New York City for treatments.
Trucker had to fight for his life since before he could talk. Neuroblastoma forms in neuroblasts, a type of immature nerve cell, developed tumors instead of growing into a mature nerve cell. The neuroblasts are instead turned into cancer. With only 700 cases per year, it’s still a rare disease. Unfortunately, Trucker was one of the infants to receive the scary diagnosis.
Even with a difficult illness, Trucker kept up with his obsession with the fire Department. And before he had cancer, we were at my husband’s fire station every Sunday. Trucker’s mom, Shaunna said. I think Trucker was just born a firefighter with such a love for firefighting. Trucker was excited with New York’s Fire Department Shana explained how Trucker always thought the New York fire trucks were blaring their horns for his enjoyment.
Every fire truck, he thought it was for him, Shauna said. He’d hear a siren and his jaw would drop. Trucker was especially excited when fire trucks were outside of his building. Jim and his team of firefighters were called to deal with a kitchen fire when suddenly Trucker appeared on the scene. I see this little boy excitedly walking towards me with his eyes a glow.
I opened my arms and he basically climbed up and hugged me around the neck, Jim said. It’s as if we’ve been friends or brothers for years, Jim recalled. After the crew extinguished the flames, Jim invited Trucker and Shana for a tour of the firehouse. This is where their bond was solidified. The firefighters let Truckers sit inside their truck.
They were so in awe of the brave toddler that they had more surprises in storm. The firefighters brought us meals at the hospital. They’ve given us rides at the fire trucks. They’ve hosted us for holidays. They’ve been amazing, Shauna said. We have these people that are now like our family that we wouldn’t have met otherwise. The fire Department also threw Trucker a special party. In April 2016, Trucker turned three.
Jim and the rest of the firefighters from FDNY Engine 22, Ladder 13, Battalion Ten wanted to help him celebrate in style. Trucker and Shawna were spending a lot of time away from the rest of their family, which included Trucker’s dad, Joshua and three siblings. To make up for being away from his family, the firefighters threw Trucker a birthday party at the fire station. All of their kindness made Trucker even more excited when he saw fire trucks driving in the city.
Every time he sees a fire truck, he goes, yeah, boys, Shaunna said. Trucker’s bond with the city’s firefighters only grew. Besides Jim’s Department, there are two other firehouses familiar with Trucker and Shaunna. The crews of standby Mac and cheese in their lockers, Shaunna said.
New York Fire Commissioner Daniel, a Nigro, eventually heard about the firefighter obsessed toddler and wanted to celebrate Trucker’s love of their work. In a special ceremony on May 30, 121 six, Daniel Sworen. Trucker, as a junior firefighter trucker earned his eye honor at the FDNY’s Brooklyn office in front of a crowd of people who loved and supported a little boy who wanted to be a firefighter.
While Trucker was showered with kindness from a group of FDNY firefighters, he bravely fought stage four neuroblastoma, but not even hugs from his favorite firefighters could make the cancer go away.
In early March of 2017, his mother shared a heartbreaking update on his condition. According to Shauna, Truckers succumbed to his illness on March 3, 2017. We’re so sad and miss him terribly already, Shaunna said.
The news came as a blow to everyone Trucker knew from his close friends and family. To the firefighters back in New York City, Trucker’s passing has been the hardest experience you can imagine. Shaunna said the Dukes wanted Trucker’s funeral to be as memorable and bright as the boy himself. That meant a firefighting had to be prominently featured.
A part of this was using a fire truck to drive Trucker to the mortuary 23 of the FDNY firefighters Trucker and Shauna befriended flew all the way to Maui to attend Truckers funeral. In person, they arrived to watch the little Hawaiian warrior legend as his headstone red Belaid to rest.
Alongside this title is a picture of Trucker wearing his firefighting uniform. Even though Trucker is gone, the Dukes are ensuring his memory lives on. We love you, little warrior, Shawna wrote on Trucker’s Facebook page. The Dukes know how blessed they were to have so much support. Not every family is as lucky.