Sounds of honor and distinction: Buffalo Firefighter Pipe Band gives Arno a final salute

BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — Tributes for Firefighter Jason Arno continue to pour in as the City of Buffalo honors him this week. One local firefighter is drawing on past pain as he prepares to lead mourners at the funeral one note at a time.

14 years ago, bagpipers marched through the streets of Buffalo honoring the lives of two fallen heroes. That moment hasn’t left the city’s mind and that sound still rings through the Buffalo Fire Department.

“In 2009, Buffalo lost two firefighters Lt. Chip McCarthy and Firefighter Jonathan Croom. For their funeral, the Washington D.C. Emerald City Firefighters Pipe Band came to Buffalo to play for their funerals,” Lt. Michael Kick of Buffalo Fire Department Engine 25 and band manager for Greater Buffalo Firefighter Pipes and Drums, said. “And afterwards they said, ‘How come you guys don’t have your own pipe band?”

The pipe and drum band formed in those fallen heroes’ memory and was created to honor local first responders after their final call.

“For me I think it filled a void after 2009 that I felt so helpless that at that time there was nothing I could do,” Lt. Kick said. “I’ve traveled all over the country doing this now. It’s my way of doing for them [other fire departments] what they did to me.”

Lt. Kick describes being at Lt. McCarthy and Firefighter Croom’s funeral service and hearing the bagpipes march into St. Joseph Cathedral. He says it was a wave of emotion that inspired him to form the group, which comprises firefighters, police officers, emergency services and civilian musicians from across Western New York.

The pipe band performs at community events, including the St. Patrick’s Day parades, July 4th parade, weddings, Buffalo Fire Recruit Graduations, Honor Flight and many more. However, the mission of the group was to be prepared to perform for fallen military heroes and first responders to send them off with distinction.

It is the sound of the bagpipes that fills the air with an overwhelming range of emotions.

“The sound of the bagpipes just enhances whatever the emotion is that you’re feeling. It’s almost magical,” Lt. Kick explains.

Thirty-five band members will escort Firefighter Jason Arno through the streets of Buffalo. Lt. Kick will usher his casket to the altar at St. Joseph Cathedral, something he calls a great honor.

“It’s going to be nerve-wracking but I’m going to have to focus on what I’m doing and why I’m doing it and try to put the emotion on the back burner for a while,” Lt. Kick added. “It really now has come full circle that we’re now doing exactly what we formed the band to do. Not that we ever wanted to do it, but we’re glad that we’re here to be able to do it.”

The bagpipes will be the score of honor and distinction for one of Buffalo’s bravest.

Tara Lynch is a Buffalo native who joined the News 4 team as a reporter in 2022. She previously worked at WETM in Elmira, N.Y., a sister station of News 4. You can follow Tara on Facebook and Twitter and find more of her work here.

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