The procession that returned the body of Captain Bradley Long to Conover was made up of fire trucks, police cars and motorcycles, ambulances, and other vehicles representing public service. For them, it was a way to pay tribute to a fallen hero.
“We hate the reason for the opportunity but we are honored to be a part of it," Lt. Vince Rega of the Winston-Salem Police Department said. "We’re all in public service together, it doesn’t matter what badge you wear, what uniform you wear, what aspect of it you’re in."
Captain Long died while diving in Lake Norman on Monday in an attempt to locate a missing swimmer.
Long was a member of the Sherrills Ford-Terrell Fire and Rescue, as well as the Newton Fire Department.
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On Wednesday morning his body was returned from the hospital in Winston-Salem to the Bennett Funeral Home.
All along the 55 mile route along I-40, fire trucks and other emergency vehicles could be seen parked on the overpasses offering their salutes and respects to Captain Long and his family.
“It’s a rippling effect, everyone is just so touched and overwhelmed with love and support for the family members, there’s a lot of camaraderie going on, a lot of support among each other," said Pastor Byron Repass of Tri City Baptist Church. “I think it’s a real tribute for who they are, serving, folks who would just give their lives ultimately for other people along the way.”
Before the first vehicles left Newton to head to Winston-Salem, Captain Long's father talked about how the community can help his grieving family.
“People ask, what can we do for the Long family," Jerry Long said. " We have all kinds of superheroes on TV, but take your children by the fire department and thank the real heroes of this world. Thank you, and God bless every one of you.”
WBTV is the Observer’s media partner.