Sandie Parker can hear her husband saying, “Baby, you’ve got this.”
When she faced challenges, Macon-Bibb County fire Lt. Randy Parker would bolster her confidence with those words -- and a wink.
Facing enormous grief after he was killed in a blaze on Fairview Drive last week, she draws strength from deep faith.
People have asked how she could greet more than 3,000 mourners at the Macon-Bibb County Government Center over nearly eight hours Sunday and speak to all of them.
“The only way I was able to do that was by my Lord Jesus, and the other reason is I know Randy would want me to do it,” she said. “My strength totally came from the Lord for me and my boys both.”
Her sons, Andrew and Chandler, stood beside her as she initially broke down facing the media Thursday morning.
“I thought this would be easier,” she said as she regained her composure in an empty truck bay.
Outside, a donated memorial of a wooden firefighter silhouette kneeling beside a cross sits in the front lawn of Station No. 7 on Rocky Creek Road, where her husband served.
Guided by assurance she will see her husband again, Parker is riding a swell of support from those who have sent cards and messages, ordered flowers and donated money.
She thanked firefighters from near and far, emergency room personnel, hospital administrators, funeral directors, friends, and strangers who lined the streets in the cold during the funeral procession or stood in line for hours to offer condolences.
Parker was moved by the number of fire engines from other cities and states parked outside the City Auditorium for Monday’s funeral.
“I was blown away,” she said. “This is a true family, and I know Randy is smiling seeing how people are taking care of his wife and kids. He would be happy.”
Parker knows she can pick up the phone for help, and one of the county’s more than 400 firefighters would come to her aid.
Parker is also grateful for her spiritual family at Christ Chapel, who hosted a meal after the burial.
“We had enough food left over to feed every fire station in town,” she said.
She expressed appreciation for the school system checking on her younger son, Chandler, and acknowledged kindness shown to her older son, Andrew, by his employer, North Georgia Medical Transport, where Randy Parker also worked on days off from the fire department.
Before Sandie Parker spoke to the media for the first time, firefighters lowered the flag that has been flying at half-staff in her husband’s honor.
They retired that flag, which will be displayed at the fire house, and raised a new one to the top of the flag pole.
Ceremonies occurred simultaneously at 9 a.m. at all Macon-Bibb fire stations as flags were lowered and raised.
Firefighters will continue to wear black bands over their badges in Parker’s honor until March 11.
Fire Chief Marvin Riggins said the remaining hospitalized firefighter, Chief Stephen Stafford, was up walking Wednesday and is undergoing therapy at the Joseph M. Still Burn Center in Augusta.
Stafford, who was listed in good condition Thursday afternoon, suffered deep smoke inhalation as crews frantically tried to free Parker, who was trapped in the basement of the house after the first floor collapsed.
Flames erupted all around them after they thought they had the blaze contained.
Firefighter Adam Michie, who suffered burns on his leg and hands as his gloves came off during the rescue, was evaluated in Augusta on Thursday where doctors are keeping a close eye on his leg injury.
Other injured firefighters, who suffered smoke inhalation that night, have returned to duty, Riggins said.
Parker also recognized the community support for her husband’s colleagues who are hurting.
“Y’all are part of Randy, to me, and I love each and every one of them,” she said about the firefighters. “We’re still going to need everybody in the weeks and months to come because it’s going to be hard.”
Her 46-year-old husband will leave a legacy of hard work, she said.
“He wanted his guys to be top-notch,” she said.
He was a leader who knew when to have fun, and he loved the Lord.
“I know it’s going to get easier,” she said. “I know that Randy would look at me, and he’d go, ‘You’ve got two boys that you’ve got to take care of. Come on, you can do this.’ ”
To contact writer Liz Fabian, call 744-4303.