Visit to Fallen Firefighter Memorial a Go for Survivors

Editor's Note: will be streaming Saturday's candlelight vigil beginning at 3:30 p.m. ET) on Saturday and Sunday's memorial service beginning at 9 a.m. (ET). The stream will be located just below the news headlines.

EMMITSBURG, Md. – Amid the bustling atmosphere in the command post here Thursday afternoon, there was a good feeling, one of relief.

That sweet taste of victory came when staff learned that families and colleagues of fallen firefighters would be able to visit the national memorial afterall.

The thought of people traveling from all over the country, and not being able to see the National Fallen Firefighters’ Memorial was unfathomable. It’s off limits right now because it sits in the middle of federal property.

But, thanks to the efforts of Congressman Steny Hoyer, D-Md., USFA Administrator Ernie Mitchell and FEMA officials, the survivors will have the opportunity to see the memorial on Saturday afternoon.

“We are so grateful to have the opportunity. We will abide by any ground rules set,” said Raleigh Chief John McGrath, memorial weekend incident commander

Buses will carry people to the campus after the 4 p.m. candlelight vigil being held at the Basilica next door. The Presidential wreath will be placed during the brief event, and Mitchell is expected to talk briefly.

The candlelight vigil will not be open to the public this year because there is limited seating at the Basilica.

The government shutdown has forced National Fallen Firefighters’ Foundation staff and volunteers to go to plan B or C.

And, many – including local folks, fire and rescue services and businesses -- have stepped up to the plate.

“Everyone has been so helpful. They’ve been calling asking what they can do. The contributions and offers – big and small – have been inspiring, McGrath said. “It makes be proud to be part of the fire service.”

The commander added: “We have motivated, engaged people who are pulling out all the stops to make sure the weekend goes off without a hitch…”

During a late afternoon briefing, volunteers spoke of the progresses under their command. The majority simply replied: “Ready.”

“Were and are there challenges – sure. But this is when firefighters shine. We adapt. It’s our nature…”

Larry Curl, production manager, agreed that things are moving forward at a rapid pace.

“We’re all working on a modified contingency plan. We’ll have rehearsals over the next few days to make sure we’re on point,” Curl said adding that the program will likely see changes as the service nears. “Making tweaks isn’t something new for us…”

He added that regardless of the changes behind the scenes, one thing will remain the same -- the support for the families and colleagues of the fallen firefighters. will carry both the candlelight vigil and the memorial service live.