On February 16, 1985, a 28 year old firefighter drowned while attempting to rescue a child from a submerged vehicle in a canal. The firefighter was utilizing only a mask, fins and snorkel. Shawn O'Dare is the only Public Safety Diver in the State of Florida to die in the line of duty. Today, a street in Miami was named in his honor ....

Street Dedicated To Fallen Firefighter
Mar 16, 2007 1:40 pm US/Eastern

(CBS4) MIAMI Twenty-two years ago, Miami-Dade firefighter Shawn O’Dare drowned trying to save a little girl who fell into a canal.

His death was not in vain; it led to the creation of some of the most specialized and sophisticated water rescue units in the nation.

It founded what’s now called The Miami-Dade Dive Rescue Team.

Twenty-two years later, his name is memorialized and placed on a street at 16699 NW 67th Ave. in Miami Lakes at Fire Station 1.

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The following "Guest Editorial" appeared in my homewtown newspaper, the Vero Beach PRESS JOURNAL on February 19, 2002. I have held on to these words because they are important and worthy of being repeated...

Seventeen years ago on February 19th, a hero was laid to rest.
Sadly, he didn't know in life that he was one. Amidst the estimated
1,000 mourners stood his family devastated, consumed with grief,

There was no church large enough to accommodate the crowd. The
service was held in an auditorium. The procession from the service
to his final resting place stretched seven and one half miles, with
nearly 500 vehicles. Each and every intersection for the twenty mile
trip was marked with silently flashing blue and white lights. And,
there were fire engines. Ladder trucks on opposite sides of each
intersection provided highly polished ladders that reached high into
the sky, coming together to form arches through which his flag draped
casket would pass, atop the fire engine that just three days before,
he rode. A Fire Department Honor Guard stood in full dress with
white gloves and at full attention beside each engine, each window
covered in black cloth. Mile after mile hundreds of citizens lined
the roadways.

All stood silent, some offering a somber salute to honor this hero.
Hundreds of school age children stood motionless, looking up, trying
to understand the meaning of a casket on top of the fire engine.

Television news crews from around the state buzzed overhead, their
mission intrusive, in helicopters chopping away at the sound of
silence, as did an army of journalists, all assigned to covering
this "human interest" story.

Never before had Metro-Dade County experienced such an outpouring of
love and support. Never since.

28 years old, 7 years with Metro-Dade County Fire Rescue, he died a

He was a firefighter. He was a Certified Fire Rescue Diver, one of
the very first in the state. His training was comprehensive and
thorough and paid for without reimbursement from the county. His
passion for his job and his commitment to the value of life defined
his untimely death. He lived as a hero would, not knowing he was one.

On February 16th, his unit responded to what would have been
his "last call", his "final alarm." A possible DUI, vehicle
overturned, underwater, children trapped. His last breath was that
of cold February air. He had no wetsuit to insulate him, to keep his
body warm. He had no portable air tank to provide him oxygen. He
had no goggles to make clear his vision in the murky waters where
children lay trapped. Although they provided none, county regulations
prohibited use of personal dive equipment while on duty.

Sadly, the equipment that may have spared his life was found inside
his parked truck at the fire station. If only.

"No equipment, No funds in the budget" his family was told. Nothing
more than politics dictated that a man should die for just simply
doing his job.

How much did a tank of air cost? Within days after the
funeral, "retrospect" became a popular word whispered among county
administrators and officials.

Within 30-days a mandatory declaration was passed. Funds appeared,
as did equipment. Ironically, the expense to Metro-Dade County for
participation in a hero's funeral far, far exceeded what the actual
cost of equipment might have been. So much for their budget.

This world has been a much sadder place without him in it. His
family, still grieving his loss, recently found simple solace in
knowing that with honor and respect, he reached out on September
11th, from his place above, to hold the hands and the hearts of 343
of his fellow fallen firefighters as they assembled at God's front
gate led by Franciscan Friar Father Mychal Judge.

Sadly for all of us, the fire department continues to grow in heaven.

Firefighters were heroes long before September 11th and they will be
so, long after. They are respected and revered all over the world.
What they are willing to give, far, far outweighs what they receive.

Shawn Thomas O'Dare, Firefighter, is missed. Deeply and profoundly,
he is missed. He was a hero. He was a human being. He was a son, a
husband, a brother, an uncle and a friend. He was a dedicated
firefighter. He did not lose his life in the line of duty. He gave
it. He was an angel among us.

Shawn Thomas O'Dare died as county administrators and officials
turned a deaf ear to repeated requests for equipment and funding.
The recent words of Joe Allbaugh, National Director of the Federal
Emergency Management Agency in his nationwide appeal to support
firefighters bear repeating. "Firefighters are the first in line for
budget cuts and the last in line for recognition.

This must stop!" As do the words of the Commander and Chief of the
United States, The President, George W. Bush, who in his recent State
of The Union Address, issued a statement to all Americans to
recognize and support firefighters across the nation.

The message of support is crystal clear. Expecting anything less
from politicians, community leaders and administrators is simply
unacceptable and quite possibly for some, who choose to ignore the
words of a United States president, un-American.

Susan O'Dare