COVID can’t stop the annual Tribute to Fallen Firefighters but it is changing how these brave heroes are remembered. Normally, the memorial service takes place at the National Fallen Firefighters Memorial in Emmitsburg, Maryland. COVID-19 restrictions forced organizers to postpone the in-person event to 2021.
They still wanted to pay tribute to the 82 firefighters killed in the line of duty last year. Organizers said, “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.”
Families Wanted Tribute To Fallen
However, they felt it was a much better option that not honoring first responders. They decided to go ahead with a 45-minute special tribute and live stream it via the Internet. The special originally aired on Sunday, October 4 at 10 am. The event will salute 82 firefighters killed in the line of duty in 2019 and 21 firefighters who died in previous years.
“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 National Fallen Firefighters said they went with the digital tribute to honor the wishes of the families left behind by the fallen firefighters but said they still plan to gather in person at a later date. “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. He said the tribute was developed with those Fire Hero Families in mind and encouraged everyone to watch.
Ohio experienced one on-duty firefighter death in 2019, Brett J. Wilson of the Columbia Township Fire Department.