When Hurricane Sandy sounded the bell, Easton Volunteer Firefighter Russell F. Neary, just like thousands of his brothers and sisters in uniform, instinctively responded.
Not to board their windows, not to hunker down with their families, not to enjoy the novelty of a night by candlelight, but to go out into the maelstrom and do whatever necessary -- whatever -- to help their neighbors.
They are under appreciated. After all, when things are good, they are just part of the background. It's only when things are bad that they are vivid, silhouetted in the smoke and orange glow of a house fire, or in the flashing blue and red lights that tell us danger is in the night air.
They take their work as routine, as what they do.
Firefighters respond to fires, of course, and to countless other cries for help. The circumstances as are varied as the requests.
Monday night, in the thick of the storm, firefighters in Old Greenwich struggled to contain what was later described as a "fire storm," a house blaze on Binney Lane whipped into a frenzy by 80-mile-an-hour gusts.
The "fire storm" ravaged three homes but the efforts of the firefighters prevented it from consuming the neighborhood.
"I told them motivationally at the beginning they were heroes, not supeheroes," Greenwich Fire Chief Peter Siecienski said. "I didn't want them to feel they could defy all odds. They performed like superheroes."
On Monday night, in the midst of the storm, Neary, 55 and a 13-year member of the force, headed out with his colleagues in Easton's Volunteer Fire Company #1 on the report of a house fire. It was a false report. On the way back to the station, Neary and other firefighters stopped to clear debris from the road, a mundane task in the best of circumstances, but not in those of a storm.
A tree fell and hit Neary.
The piper played lowly at his funeral last Sunday.