Steve Major doesn’t have a lot of time for breakfast these days.
“I actually had two Reese’s Peanut cups and um, a Mountain Dew,” he laughs, a little bashfully. “I had to meet for an interview at 8 o’clock and I’ve pretty much been up and running around since 6:30 this morning.”
A former law enforcement official and firefighter, Major now runs an emergency vehicle company. Lately though, he’s busy organizing a Michigan memorial procession for the victims of the Connecticut school shooting.
“This ride is a charity and memorial event,” says Major. “We have the opportunity to raise some money to build a memorial, and it’s gonna be built in Michigan and we’ll send it out to Sandy Hook Elementary.”
And, he adds, “we’re looking at helping out with the funeral expenses for the families.”
On January fifth, twenty emergency vehicles will bear the names of the children killed in Newtown, CT. The procession is scheduled to start near the Ohio border and head north on I-75, according to Major.
The route travels through several major cities, including Detroit, Flint, and Saginaw, and winding up with a vigil in Sault Ste. Marie. The procession will likely take brief detours through the towns’ major thoroughfares before jumping back on to the freeway.
But Major is getting questions about the purity of his motives: as the owner of an emergency vehicle company, is he exploiting a tragedy to build some brand recognition? Absolutely not, he says.
“I can say this: my business does not benefit at all from advertising. The money I make comes from government bids, so name recognition is not a part of this at all. In fact, [with government contracts] it comes down to the lowest bidder. So my name means nothing to organizations I’m doing business with.”
He says his company also recently arranged for several Michigan firefighters to travel east to assist with Hurricane Sandy recovery efforts.
Meanwhile, Major says he’s getting calls all the time from other police and firefighters who want to take part in the procession.
He’s not surprised, though. As the dad of young kids, Major says this tragedy is different for a lot of first responders. “You have that switch that you're supposed to flip off in your mind that doesn't let it get into your emotions. And I think due to the age and innocence of these victims, I think it broke the switch for a lot of us."
Ultimately, Major says he felt spurred to action. “The way we figured we could best help was by raising money to build a memorial and, you know, give our citizens in the state a chance to mourn the victims, because there's just been an outpouring of support and emotion.”