by Lisa Tome
For the first time anyone could remember, Perryville Fire Company's volunteers didn't have a plan.
They know how to deal with house fires, vehicle accidents, and medical emergencies.
They didn't know how to cope with the death of one of their own members in the line of duty.
Shawn Buchanan, Chief of the Perryville Fire Company, was charged with the task of overseeing the traditions and honors associated with the line of duty death of Captain David R. Barr, Jr.
Barr, 64, of Port Deposit, died Thursday, November 7 at 11:11 a.m.
Barr was injured while on duty directing traffic on Friday, October 25. He was struck by a vehicle following an accident on Route 40. He had been a fire police officer for 13 years in Perryville. He is also a member of Water Witch Fire Company for 47 years and is a retired firefighter from the Perry Point Veterans Administration Medical Center with 27 years of service.
Buchanan, who took over as chief of the company in September has been a member of Perryville since 1995. He is also a professional firefighter at Perry Point VA.
"I brought in consultants to help guide us. It was our job to provide the best honors we can. It was my responsibility to do the best I could for him," said Buchanan. "A line of duty death is the ultimate sacrifice for what we do. You want to honor that person, that legacy, the community. To the best of your ability you pull out all the stops. This is a significant event."
The funeral task list was long and detailed. It included everything from traffic control to providing bereavement counseling for anyone in need. "I call it the Book of Davey. I started it the Saturday following the accident," said Buchanan. "It is tremendous knowing we had such an outpouring of support from Cecil, Harford, and all the other agencies."
Buchanan said Barr's widow, Donna, and family, many of whom are members of the fire company, were constantly in his thoughts. All involved were told that the wishes of the family were always to be top priority.
There will be many other honors for Barr on the state and federal level. That is customary when there is a line of duty death. Buchanan said there will be a great deal of documentation to do to make sure all honors are provided. He'll also keep that information in the book.
"Unfortunately, this laid the groundwork. We now have a benchmark. I hope I never have to use it," said Buchanan.
Volunteers honor one of their own
Karen Reinhart has known David and Donna Barr for more than 30 years.
Reinhart, EMS Captain at the Community Fire Company of Perryville, was quick to sign on to be a Hero Guard at Barr's viewing Friday night.
The Hero Guards stood in 15 minute intervals, rotating in pairs to stand guard next to Barr's casket. Reinhart signed up for four shifts on Friday night.
"You stand up there and try not to think of why you're there. We're here as a family for their family," said Reinhart. "It's an honor to do it. You look straight ahead with no emotion. If somebody is crying, you don't show emotion. This is a brotherhood."
While Reinhart has known the Barr family for decades, Chaplain Steven Stone never met David Barr.
But for nearly nine hours on Friday night, Stone, from Howard County, opened doors for visitors who turned out at Barr's visitation. Stone is part of LAST (Local Assistant State Team) which provides help during times of emergency or sorrow.
"Our responsibility is to provide services, blend in the background, and let the fire company do what they need to do. We are here to support them in anyway we can," said Stone. "I never knew Captain Barr. But he's one of us. That's what we do."
A sweet way to show their support
Those who wanted to support the family of David R. Barr, Jr., did so in a sweet way.
In a tiny back room at the Perryville Fire Company, the door could only be opened enough to allow a person to squeeze in. The room, which houses the fire company's ice machine, was packed to capacity with desserts.
While mourners were inside the Minker Hall for Friday night's viewing, a steady stream of people brought cakes, pies, and other desserts to the fire house kitchen door.
On Saturday morning, two hours before the funeral began, a young woman brought eight desserts, including a pair of homemade pumpkin rolls for drop off. The woman said he mother received an email from American Legion Post 135 that cakes were needed. She and her mother prepared the eight desserts to honor the Barr family.
At North East fire company, desserts also piled up. Monica Penhollow coordinated the dessert drop off in North East. Those desserts were then added to the pile in Perryville.