Final Salute for Fallen Firefighter

Final Salute for Fallen Firefighter
By: Arnold Wyrick

SESSER, Ill. - With their heads bowed and every eye closed, firefighters from across southern Illinois and surrounding states paid their last respects to 43-year-old James "Shib" Miller during his funeral services in Sesser, Illinois Wednesday.

Miller was killed by a Greyhound bus Friday on Interstate 57 shortly after his department extinguished a tractor-trailer fire.

As his family, friends and fellow firefighters gathered to honor his 22 years of voluntary service with the Sesser Fire Protection District, they shared many memories of "Shib" over their years of working with him on numerous projects.

"Every year we do a food basket program at the station.  And at Christmas Jim will go down there two to three months in advance sitting there waiting for the people to come in to take their applications.  He was a community servant," said Captain Curtis Johnston of Sesser.

During the hour-plus-long service at the First Baptist Church, his pastor spoke of how religious Miller was and how he always made time for church projects while juggling his life.

Miller touched the lives of many people over the years as he served and protected them from harm.  And many of those people lined the streets in Sesser to show their respect and remember him.

"He was a good kid.  And that was a bad thing that happened to him.  We just remember the good times when we've been out on the pontoon boat with them.  He and his family was there.  It's a loss that's sadly taken," said Paula Kirk of Sesser.

As the fire truck carrying Miller passed under the crossed ladders of the Du Quoin and West Frankfort fire departments, all hands slowly rose to the bill of their caps and saluted their fellow firefighter as he made one final pass, before being laid to rest.

"He's always been a fella that his community was his people.  Everybody belonged to him.  And that's the way we felt about him," said Joyce Robinson of Sesser.

Now, his fellow firefighters and other members of the Sesser community are proposing a law in his honor called "Shib's Law" to help other emergency workers in the future keep safe while working along roadways.

Right now it's only in proposal form, but part of the proposal is pushing for a complete shutdown of any road while emergency crews are present.