Passing The Torch: A Firefighter Dad's Legacy When he was a boy growing up in Chicago in the 1990s, Dekalb Walcott III says all the kids wanted to be like Michael Jordan. But not Dekalb. It was his dad, a fire chief, that he idolized.

Passing The Torch: A Firefighter Dad's Legacy

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DAVID GREENE, HOST:

It's Friday, which means it is time for StoryCorps. And today we hear from two Chicago firefighters. Dekalb Walcott Jr. spent more than 30 years on the job. He's now retired, but his son, Dekalb Walcott III, has taken up his dad's line of work. They recently sat down for a conversation at StoryCorps.

DEKALB WALCOTT III: I'm from Chicago where we had the Bulls back in the '90s and Michael Jordan was famous. You know, everybody wanted to be like Mike, but you were my Michael Jordan. I wanted to be like Dekalb Walcott Jr. And one day I remember my mother said, we going to visit your father at work. I was already in the car before she can finish the sentence. You were about to go on a call, so you said, you want to go with me? And I - jumping up and down, saying, mom, can I go, can I go?

DEKALB WALCOTT JR: Oh, yeah, that's when you were 8 years old. I was trying to wait until you were 10, but I felt that you could manage.

WALCOTT III: You know, my eyes got big from the moment the siren went off. And ever since then, it was just like, this is the life that I want to live someday.

WALCOTT JR: From a young child up to a teenager, I used to ask you, how you feel about yourself today? Some days, they were OK, and some days, they were bad. But when you came on the fire department at 21 years old, I said, well, how you feel about yourself now? And you were grinning from ear to ear. It's like, I feel great. And so, you know, it's everything for me to watch you grow. Let me ask you about the worst fire that you've been to.

WALCOTT III: I'd have to say early-morning fire, about 5 in the morning. All that heat and steam and everything was coming right back at me. And I went back to quarters, looked in the mirror, and I realized - I saw the skin peeled off my face. And I was like, this is a lot worse than I thought it was.

WALCOTT JR: But you put the fire out.

WALCOTT III: Of course, of course.

WALCOTT JR: I received a phone call that night. Well, your son was at this fire. I said, OK, which way is this conversation going to go? And he says, but he's OK. And he put it out all by his self. Everybody here was proud of him. And the word went around, who was that up there managing that fire? That's Walcott. That's Walcott up there. So, you know, moments like that, that's heaven on Earth for a dad.

WALCOTT III: I'm proudest of being a second-generation firefighter, you know, kind of makes me look forward to fatherhood as well 'cause definitely looking to pass that torch down to my son. And I wouldn't have it no other way.

GREENE: Chicago firefighter Dekalb Walcott III and his dad, retired Chicago fire chief, Dekalb Walcott Jr. Their interview will be archived, along with thousands of others, at the Library of Congress. Now, Dekalb Walcott III actually wrote and produced a song about his dad, which you can hear on the StoryCorps podcast. Get it on iTunes or at npr.org. This is NPR News.

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