June 18--SOUTH BEND -- A day before the city's latest class of rookie firefighters was to officially join the department's ranks -- a milestone that will end the 20 weeks they spent training together as a group -- the recruits got a solemn reminder of the risks that come with their new jobs.
The 10 recruits, who were expected to be sworn in and receive their assignments Wednesday, gathered Tuesday to learn about fallen South Bend emergency workers at the city's firefighter memorial at Seitz Park.
"It's great remembering the people who came before us, the sacrifices they made and what they laid down," said Jean Gomez, a soon-to-be rookie firefighter who grew up in South Bend. "It's good to know where the department's come from."
The memorial, which was built 10 years ago, features the names of eight firefighters who died in the line of duty -- some because of heroic acts, and others because of tragic mistakes, said Tim Janowiak, a retired South Bend firefighter who still takes part in some training activities.
The department has not seen an on-duty death for decades, but stories reflected on the memorial serve as valuable learning tools for new recruits, Janowiak said.
"It's not only good to memorialize these people, but it's a learning experience," he said. "It's been a long time since we ever had a firefighter that we lost on duty, and we're praying it's a whole lot longer before we have another."
Copyright 2014 - South Bend Tribune, Ind.