Nation's Fallen Firefighters Honored at Memorial

Close to 7,000 firefighters, friends and family members paid tribute to the 100 firefighters who died in the line of duty in 2005 and the seven other names that were added to the memorial this year.

"When one of these men and women lose their lives, it is right and fitting that we come together as a nation to embrace with our thoughts and prayers the families of these brave souls and to honor the ultimate price that they have paid."

U.S. Senator Paul Sarbanes (Md.), the keynote speaker and co-chairman of the Congressional Fire Services Caucus, addressed the survivors in attendance.

"Your own courage and strength mirrors the courage and strength of those we have lost," he said. "You are a constant source of inspiration to us all. You may take comfort and pride in knowing that you have the nation's profound respect and deep gratitude."

Need for Support

Maryland's governor, Robert Ehrlich, compared the sunny Sunday morning of the memorial as a reminder that the morning of 9/11 was similar.

"We honor sacrifice today," he said. "Sept. 11 is viewed by some as a day of renewed awareness. I think that's unfortunate because what we celebrate in respect to the events of that day is what you do. It's just what you do everyday."

Ehrilch continued, by stating the government's mission should be to support America's first responders and provide them with the funding needed. "What ever it is you need to protect us, we have that obligation to provide it. We must always make sure that you have never the reason to question our government's resolve to protect you."

Sarbanes reflected on the courage of those lost and of current members of the fire services who continue the fight by evoking the story of a recent line of duty death in which 45-year-old North Bergen, N.J. firefighter Vincent Neglia died while searching a house fire after erroneous reports that people were trapped.

He recalled that when a reporter commented the Neglia had been in "the wrong place at the wrong time," the answer came back from a department official that he was in "the right place at the right time."

"He was trying to make a rescue," Sarbanes said. "He was doing what he trained to do. They had a report of people trapped in the fire and he went to their rescue.

"Dedication and professionalism are exactly the qualities that distinguish the entire firefighting family. From the most junior recruits along with the most senior retirees, all share in the firefighter's steadfast mission to serve the common good; the mission to save lives."