More than a thousand people in Brownwood, Texas flocked to the funeral today of firefighter Shannon Stone, who tragically fell to his death attempting to catch a foul ball at a Texas Rangers baseball game.
Stone had taken his 6-year-old son, Cooper, to watch the game at Rangers ballpark in Arlington on Thursday when the accident occurred. Stone's wife Jenny said that prior to the game, Stone had stopped to buy new a glove, so that he could try to catch a ball to give to Cooper. When Cooper's favorite player Josh Hamilton threw a foul ball toward the stands, Stone reached too far over the balcony to catch it, and fell head first about 20 feet onto concrete. He died en route to John Peter Smith Hospital. With his last words, he expressed concern about his little boy.
Stone, 39, was laid to rest following a funeral ceremony at the First United Church in Brownwood, Texas – a church Stone's wife attended and Cooper went to vacation bible camp.
Stone's death has shaken the small hill town of Brownwood, with a population under 20,000. Flags everywhere flew at half mast and flower wreaths adorned the fire house where Stone worked. City manager Bobby Rountree said the close knit community had absorbed the shock and then immediately rallied around the Stones. He told ABC one local man came to his office on Friday to tell him he was going to sell barbecued brisket to raise money. By 6 p.m. he had sold out of brisket, and raised $9,000 for the family.
Jim Douglas from local ABC affiliate WFAA, who was outside the funeral, said at least a thousand people attended, filling the church's sanctuary and an overflow auditorium… some even standing, squeezed into corners and aisles. Attendees ranged from the Mayor of Brownwood to friends and family of the Stones and even Cooper Stone's soccer and baseball teams. Also in attendance were Rangers president Nolan Ryan and several other Rangers executives. More than three dozen Patriot Guards, whose professed mission is to attend funerals of fallen American heroes, stood guard outside the church, holding American flags.
Officiating the service along with Brownwood fire department chaplain, Pastor David Barnum, was Pastor Rev. Donald Scroggs – who says the Stones were "like family," and that Shannon was honored with "humor and good feeling."
"It was very personal about Shannon," Rountree said of the funeral. "Stories were told by a couple of his fellow firefighters and there was a little levity. They talked about the type of guy he was…how compassionate he was in general and passionate about firefighting. It was his calling. It was a celebration, as much as it can be – especially with a 6-year-old boy."
A lone bagpipe played as Stone's 10 pallbearers, fellow firefighters from his shift at Brownwood, loaded a plain wooden casket containing their fallen colleague onto a ladder truck, stopping to place Stone's helmet and bunker coat on top. Stone's wife and son followed the ladder truck hand in hand, as it led a procession that included 60 emergency vehicles toward the cemetery. Lining the streets around them, hundreds of people who'd come out of offices and apartments to show support… some holding flags, some holding homemade signs, all waiting patiently in nearly 100 degree temperatures to pay their respects.