EMMITSBURG, Md. -- "Shame on Congress."
That's what the mother who lost her son in a house fire had to say about families being barred from visiting the National Fallen Firefighter Memorial this weekend.
"Some of these people have waited 18 to 20 months, maybe longer, to attend this ceremony and to hear their firefighter's name called. They should have that sacred moment," said Cathy Hedrick.
"This is a tragedy, and these people have already experienced a tragedy," she said in a telephone interview with Firehouse.com. "It's sad..."
Hedrick, the first survivor to work for the National Fallen Firefighters' Foundation, said banning loved ones and colleagues from the federal campus where the memorial and annual services are held is incomprehensible.
The government shutdown has closed the facility grounds forcing NFFF staff to relocate the annual candlelight vigil and the memorial service.
NFFF Executive Director Ron Siarnicki said earlier this week he is hoping to get permission to bring the survivors onto campus for a brief visit to the memorial. But, he realizes that may not happen.
While members of the Congressional Fire and Emergency Services Caucus have been contacted, there has not been any movement to allow the visit, CFSI Executive Director Bill Webb said Wednesday.
The trip to Maryland for the memorial weekend activities is daunting for some as they have never left their communities let alone flown.
That's why the thought of them being kept away from the memorial is hitting Hedrick so hard.
Unlike the World War II Memorial on the Mall, the firefighter memorial is not easily accessible. It's in the middle of federal property with armed security officers -- not park rangers.
On Tuesday, WWII veterans pushed aside barricades to visit their memorial while rangers stepped aside.
Loved ones of 57 families have made plans to attend, and none have cancelled because of the memorial being off-limits, said Linda Hurley, NFF chief of staff.
Hedrick added that returning survivors will be on hand -- as they always are -- to lend support, offer a hug and share a special moment.
"They'll all be there," she said of the families who volunteer. "There's nothing stopping them. We'll do what we do best -- taking care of our survivors. It will be such a shame if they come here and don't get the opportunity to see the memorial for their loved one..."