The death of Fire Specialist Tory Carlon at the hands of a lone gunman at Fire Station 81 on Tuesday permanently robbed his children of seeing their father at future monumental moments in their lives.
But when his daughter, Joslyn Carlon, joined her fellow graduates of the Saugus High School Class of 2021 on Thursday to accept her diploma, the other members of her Los Angeles County “Fire Family” made sure she would see them.
Close to 300 firefighters from the Los Angeles County Fire Department, as well as from a handful of other departments, joined together and attended Carlon’s graduation on Thursday, standing at attention as the graduate and her family arrived at the venue and walked through a parted-sea of her father’s former colleagues.
And when it was her turn to come on stage and accept her diploma, Carlon — with her father’s fire jacket draped across her shoulders — heard her name read, followed by those same 300 firefighters cheering and clapping for her as though she were their own.
“On Tuesday, we lost a beloved member of our family,” said Battalion Chief Nick Berkuta, moments before the graduation ceremony began. “His daughter is graduating today from Saugus High, and we as the Fire Department family are here in place of Tory, because he can’t be here.”
Berkuta said that it was not uncommon for the “Fire Family” to support one another during times of tragedy, regardless of engine or battalion.
“I haven’t had a chance to look at where all of our brothers and sisters have come from,” said Berkuta. “But I can see that we have quite an outpouring of support that is truly appreciated.”
Officials said they had been informed Wednesday night that they were invited to participate in the event, and yet, despite the short notice, firefighters from multiple agencies volunteered their off-duty time to make an appearance, fly their helicopters over the stadium and/or park dozens of their department’s engines and vehicles outside in the parking lot.
“We’re here to make sure that she knows we’re all thinking about her,” said Fire Department Capt. Chris Reade. “We found out last night, email goes fast, and we all dropped everything we were doing in our personal lives and came down here to show our support.”
When asked what he thought the gesture meant, Reade hoped it showed the Carlon family that if they ever needed anything, they would know who to turn to.
“It means that we’re always going to be with them,” said Reade. “The Fire Department family is huge and strong, and they can come to us anytime for anything they need.”