When a young person dies in any community, the ripple effect for families is a profound, devastating tragedy. When a young person dies in a small town like ours, and when that young person is a fire fighter from a family of six children, the tragedy weighs heavily on each and every person, whether they knew him or not. Steven Bomba, age 25, died on Friday in a car accident. A son, brother to five, friend and student of many of us mourning today at St. Joseph’s church, Steve was a very good person, humble and selfless. Today, we attended his funeral, surrounded by the hundreds of people in uniform who were as dedicated to public service as was Steven. Coming out of the church to a street lined with firefighters and EMTs, and police officers from many different communities truly took our breath away. We slowly returned to school only after his casket was placed lovingly and respectfully atop the fire engine to drive through town to the cemetery.
To know the Bomba family is to know children who have been raised with a steadfast work ethic, utmost respect for humanity, and undeniable family loyalty. To have one Bomba in English class undoubtedly made the year better; but sometimes, we are lucky enough to have double Bombas as in the case of two sets of twins. And to now have had Bombas in my class for 10 years, I can’t even imagine their loss as a family. So we hugged them tightly last night at the wake, sharing how much we loved their family.
Anthony, a successful chef and second oldest brother, eulogized his brother this morning, something a brother or friend should never have to do at such a young age. Yet there he stood in front of a standing room only filled church on morning filled with sunshine, endless tears, and grief stricken parents, siblings and friends. In those moments that followed, Anthony made us laugh; he reminded us of what it must have been like to grow up in a house with six children; he told stories about their mom having roll call in the mornings before school and Steven always taking care of Christmas presents and signing cards for everyone; he explained honestly that life hasn’t always been easy but because they had one another they could withstand the hardship and challenge that often follows us in this world. The strength he displayed this morning is a result of growing up in a family like the Bombas.
Returning to school will be hard for some of our kids, those directly affected of course, and even those who are just struggling to process others’ sadness. Some empathize immediately having lost fathers or mothers or grandparents or friends or even pets. And others have never lost a person so close to them like a brother or a sister, and we can’t even imagine. There are no words which can comfort Steven’s grieving mother or father or remaining siblings. But the same little Steven I taught in 9th grade, followed by little Anthony, Vinny, Joey, Phil and Jennifer, understood what it was to come to class prepared, respectful, and ready to work hard. This doesn’t just happen, and they will continue to hold those virtues near to their heart because of how they have been raised.
Steven dedicated his life to serving others because there was work needing to be done. To his friends and colleagues in the Lincoln and Woodstock Fire Departments, those traveling with him the afternoon of his accident, his loyal friends, and mostly to his loving family, our thoughts and prayers are with you always.