By Hannah M. Hayner (Fort Drum Public Affairs)October 30, 2008
Three Fort Drum firefighters were honored Oct. 8 for their acts of bravery during an emergency rescue they never would have wanted to encounter. On June 30, a call came in that Kamargo Apartments in Black River was on fire. Firefighters John Smith, Lyle Robbins and Steve Larue went into a second-floor apartment to rescue a woman. It wasn't until they carried her out of the building that they learned the woman's identity - Virginia Ann Inman, Fort Drum Fire Chief Peter Queior's mother-in-law. "I didn't know it was her until after we got her out, but I saw Chief, and his eyes and his face said everything," Robbins said. "It wasn't easy," Smith said. "It was a call that no one ever saw coming. It's not every day that you go to a fire and pull out your boss's mom - that hurt." Although Queior's mother-in-law initially responded to treatment, she passed away later that day. "The guys were compassionate toward me and nervous that they let me down, but that couldn't be farther from the truth," Queior said. "They performed magnificently, brilliantly, and did everything they could possibly do." "What they did says a lot about their abilities and self-discipline and who they are as people," said Dean Yauger, president of the local chapter of International Association of Fire Fighters. "They had to realize halfway through that this was someone who was part of their own family." Col. Kenneth H. Riddle, Fort Drum garrison commander, presented the three firefighters with the Commander's Award for Civilian Service and a coin last week during a ceremony on post. All three men said they were honored but they were just doing their jobs. "Anyone else on the truck that day would have done the same thing," Larue said. "I'm just proud I could be there and help the Queior family. "We also couldn't have done any of it without firefighter Jim Haggerty," Larue added. "He drove the truck that day and was working hard doing his job outside the building. He should be up here with us." Robbins agreed the rescue was a team effort that included Haggerty, the Black River Fire Department and others. Many were working to rescue multiple victims from the building and transport them for further medical attention. "The three of us were just a small part - the tip of the arrow that did the work," he said. Queior said that although the actions of the three men were being recognized, he knew many people from Fort Drum were valuable that day. "It takes a whole team to make it come together, all components of a clock to make it go around," he said. "They are all trained, ready, willing and able, and they are humble. We're proud of them, and we watch and take care of them. "They put their 'S' shirts on every day when they come to work," Queior added. "They all have an 'S' in the middle of their chests, and they give of themselves every day."