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A National Tribute to 112 Fire Heroes

Flags billowed and the distinctive melodies of bagpipes rose toward the skies on brisk October breezes. This was the scene as 112 firefighters who died in the line of duty were officially honored at the 35th Annual National Fallen Firefighters Memorial Service in Emmitsburg, Maryland on October 9, 2016. Through music, tribute readings and a display of cherished traditions, the families and friends of these courageous men and women were reassured that they – and their firefighters – would never be forgotten.

In his opening remarks, Chief Dennis Compton, Chairman of the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation (NFFF) said, “Today, we honor 79 firefighters who died in the line of duty in 2015 – and 33 firefighters who died in previous years. This includes 24 courageous firefighters who battled diseases and lost their lives due to their heroic efforts following the September 11th attacks.”

This marks the first time that the Federal Government recognizes deaths attributed to exposures from toxins related to the World Trade Center scene as line-of-duty deaths.

Compton promised the survivors that they could expect to be treated with the same compassion, kindness and commitment that are deeply valued by firefighters. He also noted that around the country, fire departments, places of worship, community groups and individuals were also taking time to pay their respects for these heroes.


“Firefighters aren’t necessarily comfortable being called a hero – but just the same, that word describes them very well,” Compton said. “Remember that firefighters don’t become heroes because they died in the line of duty. They became heroes the day they signed-up to be a firefighter. And you – the survivors – are their heroes because you supported their desire to serve.”


In echoing this sentiment, FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate reflected on the respect firefighters evoke from the public and the sympathies expressed nationwide. “You have gone through a loss, but you are not alone. It is a grateful nation that wants to honor today your heroes who are now national heroes,” he said.

Chief Compton, Administrator Fugate and U.S. Fire Administrator Chief Ernie Mitchell unveiled the bronze plaque bearing the names of the 112 fallen. The plaque joins others that surround the National Fallen Firefighters Memorial.

Survivors received an American flag that had been flown above the National Fallen Firefighters Memorial and the U.S. Capitol Dome. They were also presented a red rose along with a personalized badge bearing the name of their firefighter.

As the service concluded and the brisk breezes ushered in a warm autumn day, Chief Compton invited everyone present to return to the Memorial to see the name of their firefighter and reflect on special times. He also assured the survivors that the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation would be there to offer support and comfort at any time – day or night – just as their firefighters had done for others.

Weekend Events

The Memorial Service is part of the National Fallen Firefighters Memorial Weekend, hosted by the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation.

Relatives and friends of the 112 firefighters honored this year were welcomed by the Foundation during a special dinner on Friday, October 7. On Saturday morning, the survivors met in groups based upon their relationship to the firefighter. They were able to learn about the services offered by the NFFF and talk with others who understand their feelings.

During the day they made luminaries, memory boxes, and Christmas ornaments to honor and remember their firefighters. They also recorded memories of their loved ones through the Foundation’s Hero Tributes.

On Saturday evening, the families gathered at the Basilica of the National Shrine of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton for the annual Candlelight Service. Fire Service Survivor Carol Liddy, daughter of Richard Liddy who died in 1994, told the history of luminaries then lit a symbolic one. The tradition of the Remembrance Candle was explained by Dennis and Jane Neville, parents of Brian Neville who died in 2008. They, and a group of returning survivors, shared the light from the candle with the new families, symbolizing their connection as fire service survivors.

“Just as your firefighter shared a special bond of kinship with their fellow firefighters, you now share a unique bond with other survivors,” Chief Compton explained during his remarks. “We hope you will draw on these new relationships and find strength and encouragement as you continue to navigate this new phase of your life.”