The International Association of Fire Fighters is organizing two major ceremonies to honor the fallen fire heroes of the past year, one this Saturday, Sept. 21 in Colorado Springs, CO to honor all IAFF line of duty deaths, and a second event on Oct. 12 in New York to honor FDNY line of duty deaths.
The 16th annual IAFF Fallen Fire Fighter Memorial Ceremony in Colorado Springs will honor all 425 IAFF members killed in the line of duty between June 2001 and June 2002, as well as 74 members who died the year before, because most families were unable to travel to last year's ceremony immediately following the nation's terrorist attacks.
The ceremony in New York will honor all 343 members of FDNY who died at the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001, as well as seven other FDNY firefighters killed in the line of duty since the last Memorial Service held in October 2000.
"This is a special time in both of these events," said IAFF spokesman George Burke. "We will do our best to make sure the memories of our fallen members are appropriately honored."
This year's Colorado Springs memorial is expected to draw the largest crowd in its history. Burke said the IAFF expects over 10,000 people to attend, compared to 6,000 last year and a few thousand in previous years.
Burke said attendees will include 400 honor guards from around the U.S. and Canada, including the FDNY pipe and drum band. There will also be hundreds of people present from the Ride to Remember, a motorcycle group that will end their cross-country journey at the event.
IAFF General President Harold Schaitberger will begin the day with a private breakfast with the family members.
There will also be a procession that morning with fire apparatus, and the ceremony will begin at 1 p.m. at Memorial Park in Colorado Springs. At 1:30 p.m. there will be a flyover by a C130 from the Air National Guard, which has been fighting wildfires across the West since June.
Schaitberger will give the keynote address.
"He wants this to be an event that's uplifting for the families," Burke said. "We do not want them to relive the funerals they have already experienced of loved ones."
Speakers will also include a local Congressman, local officials and the chaplain from the Chicago Fire Department.
The event will also feature a 100-member choir, the Air Force Band of the Rockies, and a 30-member children's choir.
The ceremony will close with another flyover, by four F-16s from the Colorado Air National Guard.
"Our effort is to be uplifting with the whole service," Burke said.
Burke said the IAFF has received unprecedented cooperation from the city of Colorado Springs, the CO Springs Fire Department, and the Air Force, as well as tremendous civilian participation, such as car dealerships donating vehicles to transport families to the ceremony.
Burke said this weekend's service will be transmitted via satellite and anyone can pick it up free of charge. It will be anchored by KOAA out of Colorado Springs and will air from 1:30 p.m. to 3:30 on Sept. 21st under SBS6 Transponder 9 KUBand, uplink frequency 14221 mhz (v) downlink frequency 11921 mhz(h).
Staff from the IAFF and the Fallen Fire Fighter Memorial, along with 9th District Vice President Mike McNeill, Colorado Springs Local 5, the Colorado Professional Fire Fighters, and Denver metro area IAFF affiliates have been working for more than two months to prepare for the ceremony.
The IAFF will release additional information about the New York ceremony in the coming weeks, Burke said.
The event is being held the week normally reserved for the FDNY's annual Memorial Service, but has been moved from its traditional location at the Firemen's Monument on Riverside Drive to Madison Square Garden, which will be filled to capacity with FDNY members and the families of the 356 fallen firefighters being recognized.
All non-FDNY uniformed firefighters and paramedics who would like to participate in the New York Fire Fighter Memorial Service must assemble by 7 a.m. on Saturday, October 12 on 11th Ave., between 31st and 33rd Streets in Manhattan.
Burke said IAFF President Harold Schaitberger and local union leaders will lead the procession, and they plan to have 356 honor guard members from around the country each carrying a flag for a fallen firefighter. There will be no apparatus.
Jumbotron video monitors positioned throughout the area will allow the FDNY and family members inside the Garden to watch the arrival of the procession, and will allow those outside to see and hear the entire ceremony as it unfolds inside.
The ceremony will include a performance by the orchestra of St. Luke's, and the distribution of several medals from the FDNY, the IAFF and local unions. In conjunction with the service, the FDNY will unveil memorial plaques in each of the city's 75 firehouses that lost members on September 11.
Burke said this is a multimillion dollar project and the IAFF is providing substantial logistical and financial support to FDNY for this service, such as transportation for the family members, and insuring that all firefighters who attend are fully involved in the entire ceremony.
Burke said that the IAFF will soon be releasing additional logistical information.
Although they have no estimate on the number of firefighters attending, Burke said the IAFF has been hearing from firefighters throughout the country and from as far away as Ireland, England, Germany, France and Australia.