To most people, Chip Terry was a brave, strong, well-respected leader, a real man’s man. He wasn’t afraid to run into a burning building, he could run a half marathon in 90-degree weather and was even pretty good behind a grill. To nine-year-old me, he was an invincible superhero. When kids talked about whose dad would win in a fight, there was no doubt in the back of my mind, that my dad could have taken them all. Not only was he strong, he was smart and was a talented vocalist. It seemed that he had an amazing life. He had had a successful career as a firefighter, retiring as an assistant chief after 26 year. He had a loving wife and 6 children, all of whom were hard working and wanted to make a difference in the world. Of course, we weren’t perfect, but it seemed like we came close. How could someone like that take his life?
This is what was running through my head as I held my crying mother after we were told my dad had shot himself. “This can’t be true”, I thought over and over again, but it was. The man who, in my mind, was invincible, was gone. I sat on the couch and slowly realized I would never see him again.
To be honest, I don’t remember a lot of the first few hours after I heard the news. It felt like I my body moved on its own. I remember thinking about how the night before, while my dad walked alone next to the river, I was at a party. While he walked what I can imagine was the hardest, loneliest path one can walk, I was laughing with friends.
Even now, I still think about that night, when I go out with my friends. The rational part of me knows that nothing I could have done would have stopped him, but I think a part of me will always feel a small sense of guilt. And while I will feel this way for the rest of my life, I hope that my family can make a difference so that others never have to experience what I went through.