Legislators will have to walk through 500 boots to get to their offices at the state Capitol on Thursday.
The boots, which represent Florida firefighters who have died from or have cancer, will be placed on the steps.
The boots are empty. The men and women who are supposed to wear them can’t.
They stand for firefighters who went from battling flames to battling cancer.
“It was something that was on his mind 24 hours a day. He never stopped being a firefighter, and his call was to serve,” said Ashley Rabon.
Her husband, Ron Rabon, a captain at the Jacksonville Beach Fire Station, was diagnosed with cancer in 2016. He died a year later, just days before his 45th birthday.
“I’m a widow raising three children on my own, and I miss him every day,” said Ashley Rabon.
According to the International Association of Firefighters, in 2018, 70% of firefighter line-of-duty deaths were cancer-related.
“We want them to understand that this is not just a statistic, these are not just numbers. These are husbands, fathers, wives, brothers and sons who have lost their lives or had their lives turned upside down,” said Rabon.
Rabon had to deal not only with her husband’s death but also the enormous cost of his medical care.
“And we can’t get him back, but we can try to ask lawmakers to change the future so that it will be better for future families who are in need of help,” she said.
While Rabon hopes for change to come for other families, she will always have a constant reminder of her husband’s sacrifice.
“It hangs in our home, and it’s a remembrance of the sacrifices he made to the community. And he will always be in our hearts,” Rabon said.
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