Painting by Tim McCarthy

Herbert Johnson

3-3-5 is the code used back when we had to use a telegraph system to ring out a Firefighter had fallen in the line of duty  for the Chicago Fire Department.   This week the brother that fell in his line of duty was Captain Herbert Johnson.  Herbie is legendary among ther rank and file of the CFD.  Upon entering a room you usually heard him and his booming laugh long before ever sighting him.  Herbie was many thing to many people. Son, Husband, Brother, Father, Fireman, Officer, Friend and one hell of a 16″ softball player!  But to me Herbie will always be Intructor Johnson of Group 4, Chicago Fire Department, Class of May 16, 1996.   My first couple days in the Fire Academy were not good.  I had come down with the Flu the night before May 16th  and I was simply miserable.  I had on a bright orange hat and a green winter coat in the middle of May.  The choice of hat color probably wasn’t the smartest choice as it drew unwanted attention but I was too sick and cold to care.  I was told to remove my hat which just made me colder.   Then before sending us off to class we did and up and over.  Which is 5 stories up the academy fire escape and then 5 flights down the opposite fire escape.  I thought I was going to die.   Then Herbie and his partner in crime Albert pulled me aside and told me not to worry.  The first couple of days are mostly paperwork, tests and classroom.  You’ll be off for the weekend and the real work begins on Monday. So get well.  Yes sir I said and I did.  Monday I was 100% better.   Another time I forgot my firecoat at home.  Not my finest moment.  But even when you screwed up it felt like he laughing with you. “Don’t worry I got ya covered”  Herbie said.  “You have class in the morning and drill in the afternoon”.  He had a coat for me that afternoon.  The biggest lesson Herbie taught is that “WE” are in this together.  No one does this job alone.   Thank You Herbie for assisting that young candidate.  Thanks for your direction and guidance. I can hear your laughter  now.  God Bless.

The painting at the top is by fellow CFD and Group 4 member Tim McCarthy.  It truly captures Herbies spirit.


2 responses to “3-3-5

  1. Read about this in the paper. Sorry for your loss, John; sounds like he was quite a guy.