We applaud Alexandria fire officials for suggesting that their professional development center be named after paramedic Joshua Weissman, who died in the line of duty in February 2012. This is the right move for what it is — a way to honor a dedicated public servant who lost his life while helping others — and for what it symbolizes, which is an appreciation for the unsung heroes among us.
A seven-year veteran of the department, Weissman was known for his dedication and quest for self-improvement. Naming the professional development center, which is located at the Nannie J. Lee Recreation Center, after him seems like the perfect way to honor his memory.
Most Alexandrians had never heard of Weissman before learning of his death after a 20-foot fall from an Interstate-395 overpass during an emergency call. In the weeks following this tragic accident — the first traumatic death of a fire department employee in almost 90 years — we began learning of Weissman’s devotion to his job. His wife Rebecca wrote at the time: “He did not want to be good at what he did, he wanted to be great. And he was.”
Dedication of the professional development center awaits city council approval later this month, but that seems like a formality since the council naming committee already unanimously recommended the proposal.
The symbolism of this dedication also is important. Alexandria is full of quietly unknown workers who are essential to our city’s functioning but toil beyond the radar of most residents. They are the people who protect us, collect our trash, wash our streets, and like Weissman, respond to accidents and fires.
These unsung heroes man our nonprofits, teach our children in public and private schools, coach sports teams, and enforce our parking rules. While this development center directly honors Weissman, it indirectly honors everyone who makes Alexandria a better, safer place.
Naming this training center after Weissman is a fitting way to remember a man who, though only 33 at the time of his death, made a significant contribution to Alexandria. The dedication ceremony will be a time to remember and honor him — and all of the unsung heroes in our midst.