TRURO – Be more like Skyler.
That’s one of the messages Logan Daly spoke about when remembering his friend and colleague, Skyler Blackie.
Blackie, 28, passed away March 20, 11 days after being injured during a training exercise at the Nova Scotia Firefighters School. Blackie had been a member of the Truro Fire Service for just over five years.
A Line of Duty Death regimental funeral service was held March 30 in Truro, with thousands of emergency personnel from across Canada and into the United States on hand. They lined the streets of Truro to pay their respect as a procession brought Blackie’s remains to rest at the Colchester Legion Stadium.
“What do firefighters, police officers, and paramedics have in common?” Daly asked, as he started to address the roughly 2,500 gathered inside the stadium. “They all want to be firefighters. Skyler loved that joke. He always told it.”
Daly said he wanted people to take Blackie’s tragedy and use it to put their own life into perspective.
“Take a look at your life and ask yourself if you’re getting the most out of it,” he said.
The last time Daly saw Blackie, he spoke with the fallen firefighter’s wife, Erin.
“She said to me, ‘Logan, just live your life. Don’t worry about anything else.’ And I can’t stop thinking about those words. I can’t stop thinking about how great a person Skyler was, how much of a decent, thoughtful, caring individual he was, how determined, disciplined he could be. How great a firefighter he was.
“Be more like Skyler.”
Daly said even though Blackie is gone, he’s not dead. He lives on through the stories and memories his family, friends, and colleagues have of him.
“He will never die in my mind. So let’s all celebrate and remember him… let’s all be more like Skyler.”
Errison Blackie was Skyler’s younger brother, and ushered Blackie’s remains during the procession. He spoke about his older brother, who always looked out for him.
He carried Errison when the younger of the two crashed on roller blades and ended up with a concussion. The two brothers would stay up as late as they could, talking about becoming firefighters and working out of the same fire house someday. The two would often fall asleep in the eldest brother’s bed.
When Errison wet the bed, Blackie woke him up, made him go back to his own room, then Blackie cleaned up the mess.
That’s who Skyler Blackie was to his younger brother.
“I’ve been asked many times over these last few days, ‘Errison, why aren’t you crying more? Errison, how come you’re not sad?’ Here’s my answer. There is simply no room for sadness today or the rest of my life. I am filled with too much pride for my brother. I’m going to spend the rest of my days celebrating his life,” he said, then asked everyone to join him in a standing ovation.
Since the tragedy happened, Craig Matthews tried to decide what to say about his friend if he had the chance. Should he curse? Should he swear?
He spoke about his first time meeting Blackie, when both were fighting it out with the Truro Fire Service. One part of the physical test was to move a 200-pound sled.
“I didn’t even weigh 160,” said Matthews. “I couldn’t budge this thing, but I looked up and who was the first guy cheering me on? None other than a young guy named Skyler Blackie. He yelled and screamed at me.”
But guess what? Matthews moved the sled, and landed the job.
“And that’s the only time I’d beaten Duke at anything,” he said, using the nickname for his friend.
And of course, Matthews couldn’t not talk about “how handsome Duke was.”
“Actually, it kind of pissed me off,” he said, with the audience laughing. “He was so handsome. His body was perfect. He had those damn muscles down by his bathing suit. It drove me up the wall. Like everyone knew it. Even my kids knew it. He had bigger muscles than me. Every story my kids asked, it was always about Duke and Errison and how strong they were.”
Matthews finished by quoting a firefighter and a brother Blackie looked up to.
“Gladiators are heroes. They cry, they love, they’re strong, they lead, and they chose the path forward. Skyler was a gladiator,” said Matthews.
“Alright bud, give Cody a hug for us. We’ll get through this eventually. We’ll make you proud, I promise.
“Firefighters show up on everyone’s worst day. We’re going to try our best to help you, or die trying. That’s the way I’m going to remember my friend Skyler, my brother Duke, so others may live.”
The service included a number of presentations to Blackie’s family, including his helmet to his wife, Erin.
A bell ceremony was performed in honour of Blackie before the service concluded.
“To firefighter Skyler Blackie…his task’s completed, his duty’s done,” said Capt. Jim Stymiest. “To our comrade, his last alarm. He’s going home.”