Fallen firefighter’s parents say ‘thank you’ to community

WATERTOWN, New York (WWNY) – The parents of Peyton Morse are saying thank you to the community. It’s their first interview since losing their son to an incident at the New York State Fire Academy in Montour Falls 3 months ago.

While they still don’t have answers about why Peyton passed, they do know this: the outpouring of support from those near and far has brightened their world during their darkest days.

Stacy and Dave Morse sat down with 7 News anchor Jeff Cole last week at the Watertown City Firefighters Memorial just before a ceremony added the name of Peyton Morse.

“He was a very humble person; he would have never expected all of this,” said Dave.

“For them to put this here, for the guys at the station, being so honorable with his memory, means a great deal to us,” said Stacy.

Morse died after suffering a medical emergency while training at the state fire academy March 3. After Peyton’s death, the community shined with support. His favorite color decorated his hometown of LaFargeville in the windows of the school and community shops. It all helped.

“Every day is a battle. We live minute by minute, but we know people are supporting and praying for us, and that has helped,” said Dave.

Looking back at when the Morses brought Peyton home to Watertown from a Pennsylvania hospital, they remembered being moved by what they saw.

“Every overpass between Sayre, Pennsylvania and here, there were multiple firetrucks, firefighters, ambulances. There wasn’t one overpass that wasn’t manned,” said Dave.

Once in Watertown, as the procession drove by the South Massey Street station – in a sea of support – the image of one little boy remains vivid in Stacy’s head. Three-year-old Evan in his fireman’s helmet. He was brought by his grandfather, Matthew Grant, to honor the fallen firefighter.

“I remember driving by when we were in the car. He held his little hand up,” said Stacy. “I thought, that would have been my son – not too long ago – and now this parent had the respect, and we were very honored to see that they took the time.”

Peyton’s death rocked the firefighting community. Peyton Strong t-shirts were sold by the department Peyton volunteered for in college. A large American flag hung in front of Watertown Station 1. From the calling hours to the funeral, Peyton’s brothers and sisters were never far from his side.

“Even if they sat outside the hospital, they sat outside the funeral home, he was never alone and we are so grateful for that,” said Stacy.

The Morses say the memorial has special meaning to them.

“We’ll know his legacy will live on. This will be a place that hopefully will come to bring us some peace,” said Dave.

Also helping to give the Morses peace, the stories and letters they received after Peyton’s death, detailing how Peyton helped them, whether it was protecting a kid in school from a bully or doing chores for a neighbor.

“It’s more than our loss. It’s the community’s loss. Peyton gave so much service to the community,” said Dave.

That ripple effect – they also call it the Peyton effect – where one person does something good for someone else, will live on.

“There’s gonna be a Peyton Morse Legacy Foundation. With the donations from everybody, we’re going to keep giving back to the local community to the fire departments,” said Dave.

Giving back to a community, which has so far helped them deal with losing their son.

“We can never get back what our family and his loved ones will never get back what we want. But the shear support of the community still – which is still what we need because we still need to be able to get up every day – and we still have to fight for information,” said Stacy.

That fight for information will be discussed Wednesday on 7 News at 6. As much as the Morses feel grief, they also are frustrated and angry because in the 3 months since Peyton died, they say they’ve learned nothing about the investigation. They fear it’ll just be dropped. But Stacy and Dave are adamant in saying they will not go away.

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