HYDE, Clearfield County — They came to say goodbye.
From across Clearfield County, into Centre and Cambria and Blair and Elk, firefighters and police, first responders and more came to Clearfield Area High School to honor the sacrifice of a fallen brother.
Jeff Buck, 18, was a Lawrence Township firefighter who died Monday, six days after being critically injured when a porch collapsed on him as he battled a house fire.
“Our lives are like smoke, here one minute and gone the next,” said Rev. Daniel Osterhout, of First Baptist Church, of Curwensville. “We forget that here are young people who have a passion to serve. Jeff was totally committed to serve.”
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Buck was a senior at Clearfield, and it showed in the crowd. The gymnasium was packed to standing room only with family and friends, students and faculty.
And then there was the sea of black, blue, gray, khaki and red uniforms. They matched the field of emergency vehicles outside and staged nearby for the funeral procession.
Truck after truck streamed out of the parking lot and down the road through Hyde. They passed the police department and the post office, both with their flags at half-staff. They passed the Hyde Fire Company. They rolled under an archway made by the Brookville and Crystal ladder trucks, draped with a large American flag.
And all along the road, there were cars stopped, people standing nearby to say goodbye. One little girl wore a fireman’s hat and waved a flag.
“Our hearts are broken, but our spirits are strong,” said Lawrence Township Chief Elliott Neeper. “Today we stand united.”
They certainly did. Emergency personnel came from as far as the Pittsburgh area to show their support.
“When one hurts, we all hurt,” said Scott Township firefighter Dan Romaniello.
“We are a family,” said Spangler firefighter James Gormish. “If you aren’t in the family, you don’t understand. This is a danger that all of us know.”