JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - First responders from near and far are feeling the impact after a long, intense search failed to bring home two firefighters, Brian McCluney, from Jacksonville, and Justin Walker, from Fairfax, Virginia, who went fishing for the day and never returned.
Twenty-four hours after the U.S. Coast Guard made the difficult decision to suspend the active search for the two firefighters, emotions were raw at Jacksonville Fire and Rescue Station 31, where firefighters and paramedics worked alongside McCluney.
JFRD brought in a Central Florida counselor to assist McCluney's fellow firefighters.
"We have people here at this station who are having a really hard time with this," Chief Patrick Gouin said. "There's a lot of guys here who are emotionally invested with Brian."
Gouin, who was one of McCluney's supervisors, said support from the community has helped. While they continue their work without him, he said they also lean on each other for help.
"We have three people who have been liaisons to the family," Gouin said. "They're being hit hard, probably harder than anyone. And, they got the help and support, but support can only do so much."
Gouin said he and McCluney shared a passion for fishing. In fact, it became something of a joke between the two men, especially when McCluney returned from his fishing trips out of state with good stories.
"When he'd come back, he'd tell me about all the trout he saw in the streams up there. He knew that it irritated me because I would want to get on a plane to Maine and catch those trout that he's talking about," Gouin said. "I'm asking, what stream they were in? He knew that would get me."
Gouin remembers McCluney as kind, strong-hearted, always thinking of others. Gouin said that's what he would do now if he was here.
"He was not selfish ... and I think he would want us to start to get back to normal," Gouin said.
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