First responders, family and friends gathered Thursday to celebrate the life and service of firefighter Tory Carlon, who was shot and killed at Fire Station 81 in Agua Dulce June 1.
“This loss is extremely heartbreaking and tough, but also what remains in the hearts of many of us is Tory and how fondly we remember him for the man that he was,” Los Angeles County Fire Chief Daryl Osby said during the memorial service held at the Forum in Inglewood. “For more than 20 years, he was committed to this department. … (it) will never be the same without him.”
Carlon was remembered for his dedication to the fire service, starting as a fire explorer before joining the Forest Service and later the L.A. County Fire Department — as well as his love for his family, including his three daughters, wife, brother, sisters, parents and extended family.
“Tory had such a huge impact on his family and so many others,” said firefighter paramedic Gary Reichman, who worked with Carlon at Fire Station 81. “Even though Tory isn’t with us anymore, his spirit and legacy live on forever. His heart was full of love for Heidi and his girls. … He had the biggest heart with so much passion, pride and love for his job.”
Carlon’s oldest daughter, Joslyn, accompanied by her mom and sisters, spoke of her father as a hero, who she looked up to in so many ways.
“It’s the little things in life that mean the most, like when my dad would roll his … boombox out by the pool and be our personal DJ when my family would have pool nights,” Joslyn said.
Joslyn went on to illustrate how much her father cared for her, her sisters and her mother, something she has always admired about him, and described how he was an incredible role model.
“It is crazy how much your life can change within a second,” she added. “You don’t know what I would give to just hug my dad again, tell him I love him and see his beautiful smile just one last time. Life is too short to take anything for granted. My daddy always shows his girls how to just love every moment that God gives to you. Even though my dad is not here with us on this Earth anymore, I will always and forever carry him in my heart, and I know he’s looking down at me smiling. All I want to do in life is to make you proud. I love you, my daddy.”
Carlon’s brother Brent, joined by his three sisters, and his wife, told stories of Carlon growing up, sharing that, while a little shy, Carlon always had a smile on his face.
“Tory was instantly likable,” retired Fire Battalion Chief Steve Olsen said as he read a letter from Carlon’s best friend, Capt. Todd Stillson. “When you met him, he wasn’t trying to be anyone but himself. He didn’t need to be. He was genuine, sincere, quiet and strong.”
It was a sentiment expressed by many, including Carlon’s longtime friend Capt. Chris Ruano, who reflected on their friendship.
“I needed Tory, and I’m thankful for him, but it’s my prayer that God bless your kids with that best friend like I had with Tory, so that they can come up in life in whatever they want to do, but that God give you that person that you guys are just knit together as best friends,” Ruano said.
Stillson’s letter went on to speak directly to Carlon, telling him that he will never be forgotten, his family will never be alone, his enormous heart will always be remembered and his legacy will live on through his friends, family and daughters.
The Carlon family was presented with a Medal of Valor for Carlon’s sacrifice, as well as with the flag that was flying over Fire Station 81 the day of Carlon’s death, his “last assignment.”
As John Denton, Fire Department chaplain, ended the ceremony, he spoke of a social media post he recalled seeing on a firefighter page that simply read, “Our world is broken.”
“Now, I knew where they were coming from … this tragedy happened in our home, in our fire station. It happened in our safe place where we live,” Denton said. “Our world is broken. Yes, I believe it is.”
Denton went on to quote scripture, “love your neighbor as yourself,” calling on everyone to do just that.
“Yes, our world is broken, but I believe each one of us can make it a little less broken every day if we choose to live the way God intended us to live, if we choose to love others more than we love ourselves,” Denton added.
The ceremony culminated with the ringing of a bell, signifying Carlon’s “last alarm” and the completion of his duty, as hundreds of firefighters saluted.