Virtual ceremony honors firefighters who gave their all

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General President Harold Schaitberger gives opening remarks during the virtual Wall of Honor ceremony held on Saturday, Sept 19. Screenshot by Max Bowen

By Max Bowen-max.bowen@northstarreporter.com

Chris Cornetta, known for his devotion to the North Attleborough Fire Department and the community, had his name added to the Wall of Honor as part of the annual ceremony held by the International Association of Fire Fighters

The ceremony, held on Sept. 19, recognizes those firefighters who died in the line of duty over the last year, as well as those who passed away between 1918-2018. The ceremony was a virtual one due to COVID-19 concerns, and the physical event was postponed to 2021. Fire Chief Chris Cornetta said he and other members of the department plan to attend.

It’s somber. Chris was a very good friend of mine and his death impacted the department and the town greatly,” said Coleman. “It’s great that he’s being recognized, but obviously at a cost we never wanted to see.”

Cornetta is the second NAFD firefighter to have their name added to the Wall of Honor. Last year, Capt. Jack White was added following his passing in 2017. White served as a fire captain from 1986 until his retirement in 2016.

Firefighter Chris Cornetta was among the 164 members of the IAFF whose names were displayed during the Wall of Honor ceremony. Screenshot by Max Bowen

The ceremony was broadcast from the Wall of Honor in Colorado Springs via the IAFF’s YouTube page, and included musical performances and remarks from General President Harold Schaitberger. He said that the names will be re-read at next year’s ceremony if it can be held as normal.

Though this event is virtual, the remembrance is no less real,” said Schaitberger.

IAFF Chaplain Fr. Thomas Mulcrone said it was an honor to be at the ceremony. He asked that everyone remember those in California fighting forest fires across the state, serving in cities and towns experiencing civil unrest, and amidst the pandemic.

We pray that you be with these special families as their loved ones made the supreme sacrifice,” he said. “They served well and they served proudly. Bless those who mourn and grieve and those who celebrate. May God Bless all those on the front lines.”

During the ceremony names and photos were displayed of 164 IAFF members who died in the line of duty in 2019. Eighty one members who passed away due to an occupational disease recognized by their department as occurring in line of duty between 1918 and 2018 were also included. A bell was sounded following this. IAFF Honor Guard Commander Bruce Brown said that the bell is a tradition in the fire service, rung at the end of a call or to mark the passing of a firefighter.

Cornetta passed away in March 2019. A lifelong resident of North Attleborough, he became a call firefighter for North Attleborough in 1989 and was appointed full-time on Aug. 1, 1993. Cornetta coached Pop Warner Football and Little League and ran the North Attleborough Firefighters Kid’s Day Parade for 17 years.

Coleman described Cornetta as a fun-loving person who took the time to train the younger firefighters and would take on any task asked of him.

He led by example,” said Coleman. “He really took his responsibility as a senior firefighter seriously.”