The Funeral

Sunde White illustrates her essay about the fire fighter funeral she saw

Rest in Power Jason Cortez

Driving home on the freeway yesterday I eased on the brakes on the winding downhill connection between Highway 1 and the 280 because of all the flashing police lights stopping traffic from taking the freeway entrance onto the Southbound side.  As I continued past I could see police lights flashing on the other entrance across the freeway, stopping cars from entering on that side too.  My North bound side was open but as I merged onto the freeway I could see the South bound side was completely empty.

But why?  I couldn’t see an accident, no tree trimmers along the side, no traffic break to clear a mattress or furniture from the lanes, it was just quiet.  Then came the fire engines draped with black banners over their grills, flanked by police and fire inspectors.  As I drove under each over pass there were fire engines parked on each one with fire fighters dressed in black standing on top of them saluting the fire engines driving below.

It was a fireman’s funeral and I just couldn’t take it.  I just couldn’t, it was too much. Like, between Trump and Covid, our horrible wildfires, the stress of the election, orphaned immigrant babies, and  the death of RGB, 2020 has been exhausting.  Just trying to maintain is an emotional drain. But seeing fire firefighters stopping an entire freeway’s traffic so his comrades could salute him from above just broke me up. It was just so sad and beautiful.

I sobbed all the way home.  Who was he?  How did he die?  Was it in the wildfires? An apartment fire?  I prayed it was an old beloved retired firefighter that had lived his best life and survived to a ripe old age.

When I got home I Googled it.  His name was Jason Cortez and he wasn’t old, he was 42.  He had a wife and young kids.  He was a paramedic and firefighter that had been on the force for 11 years.  He was a Giants fan so his funeral had been held at the SF Giants baseball park.  He had died in a training accident a couple of weeks earlier.

Rest in Power Jason Cortez.

His fire house SFFD Station 3 has set up a memorial fund which you could contribute to here.

Jason Cortez