‘My superhero’: Family, first responders, mourners bury EMT who died from COVID-19

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Mourners gave a final farewell on Wednesday to a fallen hero. Kansas City Fire Department EMT Billy Birmingham died in the line of duty, after becoming infected with the coronavirus.

People who knew him said Billy Birmingham was humble guy who might not have thought of himself as extraordinary. Loved ones and fellow EMTs and firefighters say his two decades of selfless service and his final sacrifice truly make him a hero.  

“I used to always call him my superhero,” Octavia Standley, Billy’s oldest daughter, said. “Just seeing this reminds you of that and all the people he touched. All the firefighters and stuff, just letting me know my dad touched a lot of lives, not just ours.”

Billy Birmingham spent a total of 22 years as an EMT in Kansas City. He was well known for his love and kindness.

“His line of duty death was directly related to COVID-19, and so while he had love of service and was happy to be at work every single day, didn’t ask for a different assignment or anything like that, I think it’s just a matter of reflecting on that and honoring him by serving the citizens,” KCFD Chief Donna Maize said.

Birmingham’s final ride to his resting place came on board an ambulance draped in black, escorted by family and fellow first responders.

“It’s overwhelming, but it’s beautiful,” Standley said.

The processional passed by three fire houses, where members stood in salute of their fallen brother.

“I believe the department and unions have worked together to make sure our workforce is very prepared for these incidences, but it’s tragic we lost anyone, and especially a guy that was so beloved by our department. We’re heartbroken,” Tim Dupin, president of the Greater Kansas City Firefighters Local 42, said.

The family said they are comforted by an outpouring of love and support, and they are clinging to the faith Billy Birmingham professed. Words from the last sermon he preached continue to echo in their hearts.

“He said, ‘Get ready. Get ready. I know God. I want to know, do you know him?’ And I will live that legacy on to the day I die. That was truly his, yes,” Tandra Birmingham, Billy’s wife, said.

The family is offering up a prayer that the community, and the country, will rally together — while safely apart — during this crisis.

“If the city would just learn how to love again. If the city would just learn how to unite again. If this city would learn we are way better together than we ever are apartment, then I think my daddy’s job was done,” Standley said.

Billy Birmingham’s name will be inscribed on the Kansas City Firefighters Memorial, along with the names of other fallen heroes.  It is evident he leaves a deeply impactful legacy and will be sorely missed by many.  

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