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Detroit Firefighters Do Dad's Duty by Escorting Boy to Maire Elementary

Their fellow firefighter couldn't be there so they served as dad for a day, taking a Grosse Pointe second-grader to school by fire rig and walking him in as his late father would have.

Not many days passed that Robert Murray didn’t deliver his son, usually hand in hand, to school at last year.

So when Robert died last March at age 42 gone was his son Miles’ consistent companion across the school yard. His death would have seemingly ended his dream to take his son to school on the fire rig.

Yet on the first day of school, Miles, a second-grader at Maire Elementary and a resident of , rode to school on a fire engine and got a personal escort to the school door by Detroit firefighters who stepped in to make sure Miles’ dad’s wish came true.

The escort witnessed by parents and teachers brought tears to their eyes, nothing unusual really on a first day of school, but watching Miles be lovingly walked in by his father’s co-workers and wearing his dad’s big fire helmet, made some parents and teachers weep. They also hugged and clapped as Miles was saluted.

Miles walked through the school door and all the way to his classroom with the big helmet swallowing his little head.

The ride drew so much positive attention, City of Grosse Pointe Public Safety Director James Fox said Maire officials want to auction off a ride to the first day of school on a fire truck at an upcoming event. Fox said he agreed.

Miles' teacher, Amy Brauer, let Robert Murray's helmet "be on display so he could look at whenever he wanted,” his mom, Kimberley Murray said.

Miles was with his father last year at a basketball game at the University of Detroit-Mercy when Robert Murray collapsed and died. Besides Miles and his wife, he left behind a daughter, Peyton, now a seventh-grader at .

Peyton also got a ride to Maire on the first day along with the experience of being in a fire rig with the lights on. At the end of her and Miles' ride the sirens were turned on.

“This would have been the first year that he was not there to take them to school on the first day so to have them do this just meant so much,” Kimberley Murray said.

The idea of someday taking Miles to school by fire truck originated with his father when he and members of The Phoenix, the Detroit branch of a national community service organization made up of firefighters, decided to purchase a fire house and fire rig, Kimberley Murray said. Robert Murray served on the board of The Phoenix. He was also a lieutenant in the Detroit Fire Marshal's office and had received the Medal of Valor in 2009 for saving a family, while off-duty, from a burning home.

“The Phoenix group had just purchased the rig. They were trying to decide how to use it. One of the ideas was to rent out the rig for birthday parties or special occasions. ... I had no idea about any of this until the funeral service, but my husband had said that once they had the rig up and running his son was going to be the first to ride it, and on the first day of school he was going to go to school on the rig.”

His co-workers and fellow members of Phoenix remembered his words and made a promise to Miles to take him to school the first day of school, she said.

Thankfully, she said, she could be there to see it. As a teacher for Detroit Public Schools, she’s always had to be with her own students on school mornings. But due to a change in her assignment with the district, she got to be there Tuesday.

Kimberley Murray said the support of The Phoenix and of her and Robert’s co-workers has saved her from feeling she couldn’t face the day some days. She also thanked the Maire and Grosse Pointe communities for helping in numerous ways–from meals and gifts for the kids to yard work, sympathy notes and kind words.

“I’m sure you can imagine how it has been for us to lose my husband, the children’s father. ... It’s very devastating. I've never had this kind of loss. I don’t understand exactly why it happened, but I accept it. I don’t know if I necessarily want to call it a tragedy, but in this difficult time we’ve also had so many blessings,” she said.

“Sometimes I sit and say, ‘I don’ t know how I’m going to do this.' Then something happens or someone calls, something takes away the worry. We’re very blessed. It’s definitely a loss. I can’t wallow or feel sorry for us because our needs our being met.”

She said seeing Robert’s co-workers walk Miles into the school, even being there in the first place, touched her deeply. “That’s when I lost it.”

“They took his hand,” she said, “and walked him all the way to the door."

Just like dad would have done.

Cheryl Swarthout September 13, 2011 at 02:15 PM
Lovely story for a community news source to share with us. When my granddaughter starts school at Maire in two years, I hope that this event is already becoming a school tradition.
Melissa Lesperance September 13, 2011 at 02:30 PM
This is a great story of how brothers and sisters in blue and red take care of each other. This story truly touched my heart... On a side note, DO NOT auction off a ride to school on a fire truck! This story isn't about these children arriving to school on a big red fire truck. It's about these men and women who realized that this child would be missing his father on his first day of school and how they stepped up and helped this little boy keep his Father's memory alive. Let this boy have this tradition with his Father's fellow fire fighters. It means more to him then it would mean to any other child.
Brian Haberstroh September 14, 2011 at 02:40 AM
Melissa pretty much commented for me. Leave it to a school administrator to take a special moment for a kid who just lost his dad and turn it in to a fundraiser for his school.
Kim North Shine September 14, 2011 at 03:07 AM
Brian, I also agree with Melissa, but your additional remarks are unfair and uninformed. This story is being read by people who love and care deeply for this family, including children, and to use it as a venue to put down Miles Murray's principal, who is a woman by the way, is just sad. The one paragraph about auctioning a ride on a fire truck came in a roundabout way from the city, not the school, to the Patch editor, who just so happened to add it to the story after I wrote it. It is very much a side note to this story and had no effect whatsoever on Miles and Peyton's experience with the firefighters. We can't make any assumptions about the administrator, her motives, etc. based on this limited information. I hope you understand and I truly do appreciate your exchanges on Patch.
Brian Haberstroh September 14, 2011 at 03:52 AM
Yes, I should not have implied that the administrator was a man but where did I bring the principal up at all? I just said "administrator". I do not know how the school is run. I think my comment was very fair given the amount of information in the story. What is sad is that someone in a position of some authority (if it was the principal then yes, I would be putting her down) actually thought that taking a special one-time thing for a kid who lost his dad and turning it in to a school fundraiser would be a good idea. As soon as the idea of another ride being auctioned off with the proceeds going anywhere but to this kids college fund was brought up someone should have had the sense to pull that person to the side and explain to them what a bad idea it is. I know the idea of another ride did not have a effect on their experience but if it happens it will probably make their trip a little less special. I know it was sort of a throw away sentence but it took a lot away from the spirit of the story. If more information about it comes out about this idea and who's idea it was I would like to hear it.

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