WASHINGTON, D.C. – Thunderous applauses, standing ovations, laughter and tears.
The 24th annual CFSI National Fire and Emergency Services Dinner featured a mixed bag of emotions Thursday night.
The tears came as Congressman Steny Hoyer, D-MD, remembered longtime fire service ambassador – Hal Bruno.
“He leaves behind a legacy that speaks volumes about his character and integrity,” Hoyer said adding that Bruno took a stand for those who needed a voice.
The veteran ABC political newsman always wanted to get the story and was relentless at digging when he thought there was something else below the surface.
“He never wanted to be the story. Rather, he wanted to tell the story,” Hoyer said. “In a town where egos are never in short supply, Hal was modest and humble.”
Bruno, who died Nov. 8, 2011, didn’t care about party affiliation, and likewise, ranks of those in the fire service. He treated everyone alike.
Hoyer marveled at Bruno’s skills as a reporter to tell the stories of the unsung heroes in the fire service, and the challenges they faced.
“Without question, his first-hand report of the tragic 1958 Our Lady of Angels fire in Chicago, which he discovered was the result of poor safety standards, led to significant reform that has since saved many lives.”
He also went out of his way to help firefighters.
“His monthly columns in Firehouse Magazine taught fire service leaders how to navigate the corridors of their city halls, statehouses and Congress…”
Bruno was lauded for his compassion for family members of fallen firefighters. He fought feverishly on Capitol Hill until the Hometown Heroes Act was followed.
“It is often said that if you impact one life in a positive way, you have lived a good life…Hal lived a great life.”
Bruno’s son, Harold, told the 1,600 attendees that growing up he just didn’t understand. Why would he leave at 10:30 at night for a fire just 30 minutes after getting home from a long day at work.
“His job was ABC. His passion was the fire service,” he said adding that he and his brother, Danny, really didn’t know what pushed his father to pull a shift at BCC or get up in the middle of the night. “I just didn’t get it.”
That is, he said, until the last three years of his father’s life. That’s when his other family, his fire service family, were ever present. “That’s when I got it…”
Hal Bruno Camp Established
In June, 18 youths who have lost a family member in the line of duty will attend the first three-day camp session in Virginia.
The camp bears the name of the late Hal Bruno, former chairman of the board of the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation.
Throughout his tenure, Bruno was passionate about helping the families of fallen firefighters. He wanted to assure them that their loved ones would never be forgotten.
Fire and rescue personnel who’ve volunteered to be a “buddy” for the child will undergo a background check and attend a training session, explained Linda Hurley, who handles survivor programs for the NFFF.
“We were very lucky to get volunteers willing to participate,” she said, adding that counselors have been impressed with the number of men who signed on. “That’s not usually the case.”
In addition to regular activities such as campfires, hikes and other things, there will be bereavement sessions sprinkled in, Hurley said. The youths, who range from 7-17, will be at Camp Hanover near Richmond, Va.
Hoyer said the mother of a girl who will be attending the camp recently told folks that the opportunity will let her have fun, draw strength and know she’s not alone.