Preparations Made for NFFF Memorial Weekend

EMMITSBURG -- It's crunch time here as behind-the-scene people prepare for the annual National Fallen Firefighter Memorial weekend.

On Wednesday afternoon, organizers met to share information and discuss various details about the memorial weekend events slated for Oct. 5-7.

The names of 87 firefighters who gave the ultimate sacrifice in 2006 will be added to a plaque during the annual memorial service. Four others who died in the line of duty in previous years also will be honored.

Raleigh, N.C. Fire Chief John McGrath moderated the gathering, and called on committee members for updates.

Assistant U.S. Fire Administrator Charlie Dickinson said the weekend would not go off as smoothly if it weren't for the people who step up to the plate.

"This is incident command at its best," he said. "Everyone knows what their job is."

Someone coordinates the family escorts, another person handles the group who will go to airports to pickup relatives and colleagues of the fallen heroes. The honor guard liaison announced practices are set, and members have been notified.

There were discussions about parking, security, meals, access to campus, the Red Helmet Ride and other logistical issues.

R. Steven Cochran coordinates the pipers. "We don't have a shortage of pipers. About 100 have indicated they will be participating."

Cochran said he communicates via e-mail with the pipers or pipe band leaders to make sure everyone is on the same sheet of music.

He remembers when the late John McCreeden was the lone piper. "John was by himself for quite a few years here."

The pipers will be busy again this year playing on Saturday as the motorcyclists arrive on campus as well as escorting the families to the Basilica of the National Shrine of Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton for the evening candlelight vigil and at the memorial service on Sunday.

This also is a busy time for the staff of the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation.

"As of now, we have 504 family members indicating they are going to attend," said Linda Hurley, chief of staff. "We're busy tending to family requests, anything that will make their trip comfortable."

NFFF Chairman Hal Bruno applauded the workers for their dedication to the families of the nation's fallen firefighters. He said 70 survivors are coming back to help out.

"It was such a memorable experience for them, they are coming back to help others rebuild their lives, to help them leave Emmitsburg better off when they came here."