The National Fallen Firefighters Foundation (NFFF) has reached a milestone in its mission to assist Fire Hero Families in rebuilding their lives. In 1992, the United States Congress created the NFFF to lead a nationwide effort to remember America’s fallen firefighters.
The Journey is a bi-monthly publication written by and for the families of fallen heroes who have been honored at the National Fallen Firefighters Memorial in Emmitsburg, MD. The latest edition of The Journey marks the 100th issue.
The Beginning of The Journey
In the aftermath of September 11, 2001, the NFFF was working closely with the Counseling Services Unit at FDNY on outreach specific to 9/11 survivors. This programming inspired the NFFF to seek out a communications vehicle designed specifically for those in the NFFF family network. Together, then-managing director Mary Ellis and grief specialist Jenny Woodall developed the concept for The Journey—and it soon became a core pillar of NFFF Family Programs.
In fact, the beloved publication’s name originated from the way many Fire Hero Families view their own life after the loss of their firefighter. As Jenny Woodall recalled, the inaugural issue didn’t have a name. “We asked Fire Hero Families for suggestions, and it became The Journey—which is how many people describe the experience of grief.” In its nearly two-decade history, the pages of The Journey have covered myriad issues related to loss and healing, showcasing the reflections and memories of Fire Hero Families in their own words.
“The Journey has been a wonderful tool for our Fire Hero Families to connect, communicate and share their experiences,” said Chief Ron Siarnicki, Executive Director of the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation. “I look forward to each issues, and It’s uplifting to hear the stories of our Fire Hero Families.”
Still serving as editor today, Jenny Woodall emphasized that no one’s journey is the same—but that a key component since The Journey’s inception has been to foster an understanding of other people’s grief while enabling readers and contributors to not feel alone in their own. “Whatever phase of the grief journey you might be in, there will be something within The Journey that will resonate with you,” she noted. As one reader commented, “I enjoy reading it because I see the reality of the many survivors that came before me. I see how those families handled their grief. They are emotional stories. I have laughed and cried in the same publication sometimes.”
The Journey Continues
The Journey remains a print publication, but back issues are accessible online as PDFs. This grassroots publication is written by families, for families—and focuses on empathy and support for those who have experienced loss.
Through the years, more than 260 family members and friends of firefighters honored at the National Fallen Firefighters Memorial have written pieces. As Woodall noted, “That’s 260+ different grief journeys—each as unique as the relationship that set it in motion.” Indeed, The Journey offers a platform that is both personal and universal, as evidenced by the frequent feedback received by families who are at various stages of their own grief journey. “I love reading the stories. I laugh, cry, and smile with each edition. I look forward to receiving The Journey. I have kept almost everyone,” said another reader.
In addition to these stories and reflections, The Journey also offers news about upcoming NFFF Family Programs events, the wide variety of virtual peer and facilitated support options available to Fire Hero Family members, and benefits such as Public Safety Officers’ Benefits and NFFF and partner-funded education scholarships.
“I am so proud of the work Jenny does to oversee The Journey,” said Beverly Donlon, Director of Family Programs. “I know it’s a labor of love for Jenny, her passion and commitment to the families we serve is evident in each publication. Jenny is a valued member of the team and I’m grateful for all her efforts,”
With the 100th issue off the presses, issue 101 is right around the corner. Woodall continues to encourage families to get involved with this now-iconic effort. “Over the past 18 years, it has been our honor and privilege to witness and highlight the hard-won wisdom and beautiful memories shared in the pages of The Journey. And if you haven’t written for The Journey yet, we would love to add your story to these pages,” she said.
About NFFF Family Programs
Families of fallen firefighters face a long and difficult journey. While the rest of the world moves on, family members must figure out how to live without their loved one. The National Fallen Firefighters Foundation offers a variety of programs and materials to help during this most difficult time.
Most importantly, Family Programs wants Fire Hero Families to know that they are not alone. Families are encouraged to reach out by calling the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation at (301) 447 1365 or visiting www.firehero.com/families.
This project is supported by Cooperative Agreement 2020-PS-DX-K001, awarded by the Bureau of Justice Assistance. The Bureau of Justice Assistance is a component of the Office of Justice Programs, which also includes the Bureau of Justice Statistics, the National Institute of Justice, the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, the Office for Victims of Crime, and the SMART Office. Points of view or opinions in this project are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the official position or policies of the U.S. Department of Justice.