WACO, TEXAS – One was a lifelong Superman fan, another Batman. One loved to cook, another rode bulls. Others liked NASCAR, hunting and fishing.
All died as heroes last Wednesday when a fertilizer plant exploded in a fireball.
President Obama and USFA Administrator Ernie Mitchell will be among those offering words of comfort today during a joint memorial service for the responders who gave the ultimate sacrifice.
Killed in blast were West firefighters Doug and Robert Snokhous, Morris Bridges, Cody Dragoo and Joey Pustejousky as well as Kenny Harris, Dallas Fire-Rescue; Cyrus Reed and Jerry Chapman, Abbott FD and West EMS; Perry Calvin, Merknel FD and Kevin Sanders, Bruceville Eddy FD/West EMS.
Two men who jumped into action to help – Jimmy Matus and Buck Uptmor – were made honorary West firefighters.
Security around the Ferrell Center at Baylor University was tight Thursday morning as thousands of firefighters from across the country arrived for the service.
The send-off – slated to begin at 3 p.m. EDT – will include several firefighter traditions such as the ringing of a bell, bagpipers and salutes.
Each family will be presented with their loved one’s helmet. U.S. flags will be presented to the firefighters and EMS personnel while the honorary personnel will receive state flags.
Obama will meet privately with families of the fallen heroes after the service.
Several family members told Firehouse.com that they’ll set aside their political ideologies today, and meet Obama.
But, others are appreciative that he is coming.
“I think it’s pretty special that he is coming to honor them,” said Susan Miller, sister-in-law of West Firefighter Dragoo.