In about eight weeks, the family, friends and colleagues of America's fallen firefighters gather in Emmitsburg, Md. to remember their loved ones.
EMMITSBURG, Md. -- In about eight weeks, the family, friends and colleagues of America's fallen firefighters will be here to remember their loved ones.
The names of 104 firefighters who gave the ultimate sacrifice in 2008 as well as 19 from previous years will be added to the National Fallen Firefighters Memorial.
Organizers have been working for months to make sure the annual memorial weekend -- Oct. 2 to 4 -- is a memorable one.
The firefighters to be honored include pilots, wildfire crews, volunteers and career personnel. Some were with large departments, some tiny.
On Wednesday, people in charge of the various aspects or events met to share details.
A number of changes this year will call for enhanced coordination, said Raleigh, N.C. Chief John McGrath, the incident commander.
Motorcyclists who ride to honor the fallen heroes will arrive about 4:15 p.m. instead of noon. Those involved in the annual Red Helmet Ride will place a wreath at the memorial.
Also, the candlelight vigil is once again moving outside. For the past several years, the Saturday evening event has been held at the Basilica of the National Shrine of Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton.
"Having it outside at the memorial again will be more memorable for the families," said Larry Curl, the event's producer.
Luminaries -- designed by children of fallen firefighters -- will be lit prior to the ceremony instead of during the service as in the past.
Curl stressed that it's critical for everyone to know their job for the event to come off without a hitch. "It's all about the families," he said. "We want this to be an honorable occasion."
A mandatory rehearsal has been set for Saturday afternoon. "Timing is everything," he said.
Volunteers who are coordinating bag pipes, escorts, honor guards, logistics, transportation, communications, children's activities and other aspects have submitted an operation plan that are included in a binder.
"We are handling this event as we would on the scene," McGrath said. "Each sector has a plan, and shared it."
The former operations chief in Philadelphia said firefighters are used to being flexible. "We're planning for a long-term operation, and people know things can change."
McGrath, who has headed the command post on campus for the past several years, said he is pleased to be part of the remembrance.
"Look at the quality of the people in this room," he said. "This is a work of passion for all of us ..."