Tree Lighted for Fallen Heroes

EMMITSBURG -- Ornaments that adorn a Christmas tree on the campus of the National Fire Academy here are unique.

They were made by the families of fallen firefighters, and include department patches, Christmas cards, pictures and other personal momentos.

The tree, that stands near the National Fallen Firefighters' Memorial, was lighted during a brief ceremony Wednesday night, and will remain lit through the New Year.

A children's chorus from the Seventh Day Adventist Church in Frederick performed for the crowd that included survivors, NFA students, instructors and staff.

The tradition of decorating the tree with homemade ornaments honoring those who've given the ultimate sacrifice started a few years ago, said Judi Whitlow, of the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation.

"We laminate the items we receive so they can be preserved, she said, adding that they are carefully stored after the holidays.

Cathy Hedrick, whose son was killed battling a Maryland house fire, said it means a lot to see the Morningside Fire Department. patch hanging on the tree.

"Each ornament holds a special memory..."

There are plans underway to provide families an opportunity to make ornaments next October when they come to Emmitsburg for memorial weekend.

To date, 98 firefighters have died in the line of duty. Last year, 115 were killed.