Obama Honors Fallen Firefighters in Texas

Thousands turned out to honor 12 firefighters who answered their last alarm last Wednesday.

Obama said all the presidents who attend the opening of the Bush library in Dallas earlier in the day shared thoughts and prayers. And, “George W. and Laura Bush spoke  longingly about the kolaches.”

At times, the president paused as he struggled to keep his emotions.

“Our thoughts are with those who face a long road -- the wounded, the heartbroken, the families who lost their homes and possessions in an instant.  They’re going to need their friends in West, but they’re also going to need their friends in Texas, and their friends all across this country.  They’ll still need you to answer that call.  They will need those things that are lasting and true.  For, as Scripture teaches us, “a friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.” 

To the people of West, just as we’ve seen the love you share in better times, as friends and brothers and sisters, these hard days have shown your ability to stand tall in times of unimaginable adversity…”

Following the three-hour ceremony, Obama met privately with the families of the firefighters who were killed.

The fire service traditions continued as a bell was rung 5-5-5 – signaling a firefighter lost.

The family of each fallen hero was presented with a flag and their loved one’s helmet. There were tears flowing throughout the arena including on stage as they accepted and hugged the flags.

Hundreds of pipers and drummers joined in to play Amazing Grace. At the end, a lone piper continued playing and the sound faded as he exited the arena.

A pipe and drum corps from Calgary Fire Department traveled 14 hours to get to Waco to pay their respects to the fallen firefighters.

Firefighter Rob Zimich didn’t see the ceremony – except while he was marching in and performing. “We were sequestered in a gym with the others for about three and a half hours,” he said with a laugh. “But, that’s OK. We were here. That’s what counts.”

It was a first firefighter funeral for Valley Mills, Texas Firefighter Nick Guerrero, who attended the fire academy with Perry Calvin.

“It was a perfect way to honor a fallen hero,” he said.

Fellow firefighter James Jimenez thought the ceremony would bring comfort to many.

Even before the service started, Michael Chavez said he was impressed with the dignity displayed. “It’s hard to describe…”

Obama said he has no doubt that the community will survive.

“You have been tested, West.  You have been tried.  You have gone through fire.  But you are and always will be surrounded by an abundance of love.  You saw it in the voices on those videos.  You see it in the firefighters and first responders who are here.”