When a massive flood hit historic Ellicott City on Sunday, Sgt. Eddison “Eddie” A. Hermond rushed to help. Local shop owner Kate Bowman told The Baltimore Sun that Hermond tried to rescue her as the torrent gushed by — so loud she could barely hear.
The 39-year-old National Guardsman, an Air Force veteran, was washed away by the floodwaters. His body was found Tuesday morning in the Patapsco River, according to Howard County police. He had drifted to Catonsville along River Road, about a quarter-mile from Frederick Road.
Choking back sobs, friends say that it’s not surprising.
“It’s the most Eddie thing ever that just happened,” said Stephanie Williams of Seattle. She and her husband, Tariq, used to live with Hermond. She was devastated by his sudden death. She recalled a friend who idolized Superman — and was a bit of a superhero himself.
“I can totally believe that he put his life at risk for someone he didn’t know, in a town where he wasn’t from, because that was home for him,” said Tariq Williams, who met Hermond 15 years ago while serving in the Air Force. He said Hermond had grown up in California and New York.
Everywhere Hermond went was home, he said. Everyone he met became family.
A spokesman for the Maryland National Guard, Col. Charles Kohler, said Hermond joined in 2009 and was assigned to Camp Fretterd in Reisterstown. He enlisted in the Air Force in 1996 and served more than a decade on active duty.
Howard County Executive Allan H. Kittleman said the entire county was indebted to Hermond for his sacrifice.
“Make no doubt about it: Mr. Hermond is a hero who put the lives of others before his own,” Kittleman said. “He saw somebody in need. He didn’t think about himself. And went to bring aid. And we as a county will be forever grateful to him.”
Vice President Mike Pence tweeted his condolences and offered prayers for Hermond’s family Tuesday night.
“Saddened to learn of the loss of Maryland’s Eddison Hermond—the brave National Guardsman & Air Force veteran who lost his life rendering assistance to a neighbor. Eddison lived a life of service to his nation,” Pence tweeted. “God bless Eddison Hermond.”
Howard County Police Chief Gary Gardner said Hermond tried to cross the raging water flowing down Main Street to rescue a woman in need who was holding a cat.
Emergency crews and the National Guard draped Hermond’s body in the American flag as they removed him from the river, Howard County Fire Chief John S. Butler said. Gov. Larry Hogan ordered flags lowered to half-staff on Tuesday.
A woman who answered the door at the Severn home where Hermond lived declined to comment to a reporter Tuesday. His family issued a statement through the National Guard requesting respect for their privacy and thanking those who helped search for him.
As of Tuesday evening, a Go Fund Me account Stephanie Williams set up to cover Hermond’s funeral expenses was more than halfway to its $20,000 goal.
When he wasn’t on active duty, Hermond found his calling in the restaurant business. Friends say he was thrilled to get a job working with the Victoria Gastro Pub when it first opened 11 years ago. Over the years, he worked his way up from server to bartender to manager, said Randy Marriner, owner of the Victoria Restaurant Group. He was like “family,” Marriner said.
Fellow servers and customers adored him. “He touched everyone he met,” said Tariq Williams, who considered Hermond “100 percent” his big brother.
Rose Lovely of Connecticut met Hermond only a few times, but loved his flirtatious and big-hearted personality. “He was just a very contagious, infectious person — in a good way,” she said. Her daughters worked with Hermond and are wrecked by his passing, she said.
Another friend who knew Hermond from the restaurant remembered him as a kind, selfless man.
“He died like he lived, as an example of selflessness. We should all be so brave,” said James Hammond. “I think that for those of us who know him, we feel that if he was here right now and the circumstances were the same, that he would do it all over again. He is a selfless kind of guy, as most heroes are.”
And everyone remembers Eddie’s signature drink, says Tariq Williams: a Raging Bitch from Flying Dog Brewery accompanied by a shot of Old Grand-Dad.
On Friday morning, Hermond wrote what would be one of his last Facebook posts.
“Okay kiddos, it's Friday and the start of Memorial Day weekend,” he began. “Let's get the hate out of our hearts. Focus on the positives and let's all, for once, enjoy life as it's meant to be enjoyed. Whatever your pleasure is … just be happy. We're free because people gave their lives for us to live this way.
His friends loved it so much, one asked if he would make the post “public,” so that she could share it with her friends, too. Another friend, Lovely, commented to thank Hermond for his service.
“Wrong holiday,” he corrected her. Sure, he was a veteran and member of the Maryland National Guard, but Memorial Day was for fallen heroes, not him. Not yet.
Baltimore Sun reporters Alison Knezevich and Luke Broadwater and Baltimore Sun Media Group reporters Libby Solomon and Selene San Felice contributed to this article.