BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) – Garnell Whitfield first got the call to serve the community he grew up in, back in 1984. He started as a front-line firefighter and worked his way up to commissioner of the department.
“I loved what I (did).”
He officially retired last week.
“It’s probably the hardest decision I’ve ever made,” said Whitfield as he reflected on his service. “I loved working with the men and women in the Buffalo Fire Department.”
After going through major surgery earlier this year, Whitfield knew it was time to make a change.
“I’m not able to perform full functions of the job, in terms of going to fires and responding to calls, like I always did. I can’t do that at this particular time.”
But that didn’t make walking away any easier.
Whitfield said he will always remember the successes of the department helping people in the community.
“Our mission is righteous. We have a sacred mission to take care of our fellow man.”
He will also remember the tough times. He said losing people or fellow firefighters while out on a call was always rough.
One that still sticks with him took place in 2009. Two Buffalo firefighters died inside burning building. “1815 Genesee Street. Jonathon Croom and Chip McCarthy…we lost two members that day…and back down through the years, Michael Seguin,” said Whitfield. “You never get over it. That’s something that we all have to live with from now on.”
Going forward, Whitfield said he will always cherish the time he spent with the Buffalo Fire Department.
As for the next chapter in his life…that’s an open book. But he’s so grateful for the one that just closed.
“I feel like I’m wonderfully blessed to have had this opportunity.”