RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - Hearts were heavy in Hanover on Wednesday as thousands of friends, family, colleagues and firefighters from out of state attended the memorial service of fallen firefighter Lt. Brad Clark.
Clark, 43, of Mechanicsville, died in the line of duty last week while responding to a crash on I-295 as Hurricane Michael moved through the area. A tractor-trailer struck his fire engine from behind. Three other officers were wounded.
He was a 13-year veteran of Hanover County Fire and EMS and also served in the U.S. Army before joining the fire department.
Clark’s casket arrived on a station 6 fire engine driving underneath two Hanover County Fire & EMS engines that hoisted an American flag outside the event park.
The firefighter, who many people looked up to for inspiration, also grew up surrounded by firefighters; his father, Bob Clark, is a long-time firefighter with Henrico County.
“Yes, he was short in stature but his heart was as big as the moon," said Bob Clark. “His dedication to his family, Gethsemane church, Hanover Fire Department and all of his friends had no limits."
Flags were lowered to half-staff in Clark’s honor and officials from across the state gathered to honor his life and sacrifice.
“He was a man who loved what he did and insisted you be as good as he was," said Deputy Chief Billy Goldfeder, of Loveland-Symmes Fire Department. "He wasn’t one to brag about how good he was, he showed it.”
The memorial service was filled with a tribute to Clark’s fire service, his military service and touched on his strong faith.
His cousin sang a version of “Amazing Grace” and other friends and family sang songs in memory of the man with a “big personality”.
“Brad had the most contagious laugh and the warmest spirit that could reach the depths of our souls,” said Ryan Sharp, a childhood friend.
“I knew that he would be a force to be reckoned with... and boy was he ever!” said Hanover County Fire & EMS Chief Jethro Piland, III.
The service also mentioned the crash that took Clark’s life and injured three other firefighters. Several people touched on Clark’s heroic actions until his last breath.
“In that fateful moment he did what he did best, taking care of his people, he screamed out a warning of the impending crash," Goldfeder said. “By all accounts he saved Carter, Dave and Chris’s lives.”
“Brad is my hero," Piland said. "His actions Thursday night saved the lives of Chris, Carter, and David.”
One of the firefighters severely injured attended the funeral but had to be separated from the public due to doctor’s instructions.
More than 2,500 people filled the Meadow Park Event building, many of them locally, but also from out-of-state.
All the way from Sacramento, California, Kevin Summers said he made the cross-country trip to honor the life and legacy of his fallen brother.
“[It’s a situation for] firefighters all across the country, when we lose one it hurts all of us,” Summers said.
While Clark died doing the job he loved, he was also prepared for this situation and left behind a letter which was read out loud by his brother.
“I love to see other people smile, so I suppose you know I spent a great deal of my life trying to make you all show your teeth,” said Jonathan Clark.
The heartfelt letter continued where Clark addressed his friends colleagues and also his daughters.
“All of you have amazing hearts, so full of love, don’t be selfish with them,” Clark read.
He also left a message for his wife in the letter.
“I’ve loved you since I was 19 years old," Clark read. “No matter the distance, my love for you was always there.”
More than $12,000 has been raised in Clark’s memory. CLICK HERE for a GoFundMe page to help Clark’s family.