EMMITSBURG, Md. -- Families of the nation's fallen firefighters took advantage of the sunny warm weather here Saturday.
Some survivors made rubbings of bricks, while others snapped pictures of family and friends in front of monuments on the campus of the National Fire Academy.
Thousands of firefighters and their families are here to participate in the annual National Fallen Firefighters' Memorial weekend.
Shortly after 4 p.m., motorcyclists rode onto campus to waves and applause. This year's Red Helmet Ride was a bit special as some of the passengers were fallen hero survivors.
About an hour after taking her first motorcycle ride, Helene Czerw was still beaming -- proud that she finally put on a helmet.
"It was awesome," she said. "People were so wonderful. They were waving or blowing their horns. I really liked riding through Emmitsburg. There are signs on the lampposts honoring firefighters. That really got me. I even saw people had signs in their windows."
Czerw's husband, Joe, was honored during the first ceremony in 1982. The volunteer firefighter from Taylor, Pa. was electrocuted in a house fire.
Now, she comes back to help others who suddenly find their lives changed forever.
"There was a young woman with a small child embarrassed that she was crying. I told her it was OK to let it out. I still get emotional."
Czerw knows what the women with young children are going through. Her son was two when her husband was killed.
Cari Thornton also decided she wanted to be part of the ride this year.
Her husband, Scott, a firefighter in Summit Township, Mich., was killed in a house fire in 2005.
"Overwhelming. What else can I say," she said with a laugh. "The first time I saw the ride, I thought it was one of the coolest things I'd ever seen. It was great that people get together like this to honor the firefighters."
Lower Chichester. Pa. Deputy Chief Ken Boyd participated in the Red Helmet Ride for the first time Saturday.
"It gave me goose bumps last watching it last year," he said, adding that he was determined to be part of it this time.
His co-worker, Nicholas Picozzi was honored last year. He was killed while battling a house fire.
As the motorcyclists made their way north from Walkersville to Emmitsburg, motorists stepped out of their vehicles to watch. Some waved their hats, some stood with their hands over their hearts and others just watched.
During a brief ceremony at the National Fallen Firefighters' Memorial, survivors heard remarks from Tommy Baker, ride coordinator.
"The firefighting family is unique to all other professions because it is your second family. Your weekend here is a time for healing, but the healing doesn't end here."
Baker urged the crowd to remember the sacrifices of the heroes when they return to their communities.