In this, the 20th season of the Chicago Wolves, I am as elated with the upcoming weekend games as I was back on October 14, 1994 because of what will be happening before the game even begins. We (as in me too) will be wearing the First Responders jerseys, (sweaters for the hockey purists) for the games this weekend and then again on January 17th. The significance of getting my own jersey is an honor to be sure, but the real event for me is the company that I will be keeping on the red carpet before and during the National Anthem on tonight.
I am pleased to introduce you to Henry Hugel and Bill Steiner. They are a part of the all-too-often nameless men and women who wear the uniforms in our neighborhoods whose own lives are dedicated to keeping us safe in times of need. I first met Bill and Henry late one night in the spring of 1994 as I sat in waiting filled with fear of what had just happened to me. Just moments earlier, I had been in the wrong place at the wrong time and was now looking them both in the eyes with the hope that they could provide the care that I needed to get me to the hospital. These two men who responded to the call were the link between life and death at that moment.
I vividly remember their sense of calm and professionalism as they assessed the wound in my neck from having been shot at point blank range. They gave me a needed sense of calm without displaying any fear whatsoever in their expressions. It was a frightening experience of unknowing, where I had to put my total confidence in their capable hands. I thank God every day since then that they were prepared for that moment. They delivered me safely to Cook County Hospital where the trauma unit took over.
The weeks and months that followed were a difficult uphill battle to regain the ability to speak, with many painful and discouraging stops along the way until the first Chicago Wolves home game, just six months and five days later. Not a single step on this journey would have been possible had not Henry and Bill done their jobs that night… a fact for which I am eternally grateful. We can never forget those people in our lives that have stepped forward to help us in our times of critical need.
I personally invite everyone whose life has been touched by a first responder to be at the Chicago Wolves games this weekend to pay tribute to the brave men and women who humbly serve and protect in the daily course of doing their jobs with pride and competence.
Tonight, I will proudly introduce Henry Hugel and Bill Steiner to the rest of my Chicago Wolves family of fans and will stand tall and proud next to two of my personal heroes who will be honored as part of the Hometown Heroes series of recognitions throughout the season. It will be a moment of gratitude that cannot be put into words for “my guys.” And while I may be searching for the proper words to say “Thanks fellows,” the greatest appreciation will come with the strains of the Star-Spangled Banner being sung with great honor and pride, dedicated to two members of the Chicago Fire Department who never asked for recognition, but truly deserved it. Henry and Bill, this one’s for you… in fact, every National Anthem I have sung for the past twenty years, is thanks to you!