There are many traditions in the fire service that do not translate to video conferencing. Memorial services, with their time-honored expressions of grief, is one of these traditions not meant for a digital gathering.
As in past years, the first weekend in October has always been reserved to honor the nation’s fallen firefighters who died in the line of duty the previous year, at the National Fallen Firefighters Memorial located in Emmitsburg, Maryland. This year, due to the global pandemic, an in-person event is not possible.
After much deliberation, this year’s National Fallen Firefighters Memorial is being postponed until 2021. Another way was sought, in a safe format, to honor the 103 fallen firefighters who made the ultimate sacrifice, and to ensure the families know that they are not alone in their grief.
On Sunday, Oct. 4, at 10 a.m. EDT, the lives of 82 firefighters who died in the line of duty in 2019 and 21 firefighters who died in previous years will be remembered in the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation’s production of America’s Tribute to Fallen Firefighters. This 45-minute special will be available to watch on www.firehero.org and through the NFFF’s social media platforms.
“We invest the better part of a year planning for the National Fallen Firefighters Memorial. We will not let COVID-19 stop us from honoring our nation’s fallen, paying our respects for their sacrifices, and letting their loved one’s know we are here to support them,” said Chief Ronald Siarnicki, Executive Director of the NFFF. The Tribute reflects the wishes of Fire Hero Families to honor their firefighters but is not a replacement for the National Memorial.
“We will come together, in person, to reflect on and honor the sacrifice of your loved one when it is safe to do so,” said Troy Markel, Chairman of the Board of the NFFF.
While the Tribute was developed with Fire Hero Families in mind, everyone is encouraged to watch. Please take a moment to read the 2020 Roll of Honor, a collection of stories about fire heroes, as submitted by their families, friends and fellow firefighters. In learning more about fallen heroes, people can begin to grasp the void their loss leaves in the lives of those they have left behind.
Joining Chairman of the Board, Troy Markel, in America’s Tribute to Fallen Firefighters will be Fire Hero Families, the U.S. Fire Administrator, and national fire service leaders who will share messages of support and remembrance. Some of the nation’s well-known personalities also join along with regular citizens to share their thanks for the work firefighters do every day.
On the evening of Oct. 3, as dusk turns to dark, landmarks, buildings, bridges, fire stations, and homes across the country will light up in “red” to honor America’s fallen firefighters as part of the Light the Night for Fallen Firefighters program. On Oct. 4, America’s Tribute to Fallen Firefighters begins with bells ringing across the country in honor of fallen firefighters through the Bells Across America program. For more information on how you can take part in these programs, visit www.firehero.org.