This past weekend, I traveled to Emmitsburg, Maryland to attend the 33rd annual National Fallen Firefighters Memorial Weekend. While I have watched the live streaming of this event in years past, I was not prepared for the emotional experience that I would witness. Each year, hundreds of survivors attend the National Fire Academy for their loved ones to be honored. A number of activities are planned throughout the weekend for the families, and returning survivors also assist the new families throughout the weekend. Over 1,000 volunteers assist with the services to make sure the weekend is all about the families of those who passed in the last year, and those who are being honored from previous years.
This year, 98 firefighters who passed away during 2013 and 9 firefighters from previous years were added to the NFFF Memorial. The Candlelight Service that was held on Saturday night was a very somber experience that was filled with candles being lit in 107 bags decorated with photos of the fallen. These were decorated by the survivors throughout the weekend. There were also a number of musical performances that were nothing short of amazing during the Candlelight Service. The somber cold evening was definitely a memory that will not forget and it was absolutely an honor to attend.
The Memorial Service was held on Sunday morning, and the weather ended up being perfect. We were able to set near the back of the seating and had a clear view of the stage and screen. A number of guest speakers were in attendance, but once again all of the focus was directed toward the survivors. Each of the fallen firefighter’s names were read as the families were presented a flag that was flown over the Capitol building, a badge in honor of their loved one, and a red rose. The presentation of these items is amazing if you have never witnessed it. Firefighters from across the country work as a team to pull off a flawless performance. The National Fallen Firefighter Memorial Pipes & Drums also perform with over 190 members marching and playing in unison. These are just a few of the elements that go into making the weekend a success. The video montage by the NFFF was released at the closing of the ceremony.
If you haven’t had the chance to attend, make a point to! The ceremony is always the 2nd weekend of October every year, and I hope to attend every year that I’m able in the future. I was also able to catch up with a few friends, and make a few new ones as always. With the site, I often keep in contact with people online and it is always a pleasure when I am finally able to meet them. If you were one of the volunteers that worked this past weekend, THANK you for volunteering your time for a great cause. If you are interested in volunteering in the future, information is always posted on the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation’s newly launched site, FireHero.org.