Keynote Address from 2nd Annual Memorial Service by Dan Jones
North Carolina Fallen Fire Fighters Memorial Service
Nash Square, Raleigh, NC
May 5, 2007
Keynote Address, Dan Jones
Express condolences to families first and thank NCFFF for invitation.
This is a day when our hearts are heavy with grief…………but our chests also swell with pride.
This is a day when we feel loss…………..but we also feel the love of family, community, brother and sisterhood.
This is a day when we honor, revere and remember those members of our Fire Service family in North Carolina who have made the ultimate sacrifice in service and duty to their communities. To our communities.
It is indeed a privilege for those of us representing the North Carolina Fire Service to host the families of our lost colleagues in this special place created through the love, commitment and dedication of the North Carolina Fallen Firefighters Foundation.
For this is a very special place. It is now and forever hallowed ground where we commit to memory the sacrifice, courage and service of the firefighter heroes that have gone before us.
It is also a very special place because this is where we as Fire Service brothers and sisters make the promise to the families of the fallen that we shall not forget their loved ones, nor shall we forget the sacrifice that these special families have made for the safety and security of their neighbors.
Today we honor the sacrifice of 26 North Carolina firefighters by including their names and memories into this special place. 11 of those firefighters were lost during 2006. They represent every element of our firefighting forces.
They are from metro cities and rural countryside and small towns. They are from down east, the Piedmont, the foothills and the mountains. They are volunteer and they are career. They were young and they were senior. They are all firefighters. They are all heroes. And they are all the very best of their communities.
But more importantly than all of that is who they were. They were sons and brothers and fathers and uncles. They were friends and neighbors. They were the apple of someone’s eye and they were someone’s confidante. They were the love of someone’s life and they were the hero in little eyes. They were the pillar of someone’s support and they were someone’s shoulder to lean upon. They were the provider of a laugh when someone needed a pick-me-up and they were someone’s invaluable helping hand.
This is the reason why we, the fire service, celebrate and salute you, the families of the fallen. For although your loved one has made the supreme sacrifice for duty, you have made an even harder sacrifice in life.
Healing will come, memories will sustain you and God will provide you grace. And we, the Fire Service pledge to support you and forever hold your loved one in our special place of honor and remembrance.
So how do we living firefighters best honor our fallen brethren? Not by ceremony or engraving of plaques. Not by salute or the playing of Taps. Not by parades or speeches.
We honor them best by recommitting ourselves to duty in a manner that does not discredit the service.
We honor them by dedication to improvement of our training so that failed training does not add names to this hallowed memorial.
We honor them by providing our firefighters with the very best protective equipment so that failed safety equipment does not add names to this hallowed memorial.
We honor them by compelling our communities to provide adequate resources so that trying to accomplish a mission without needed tools does not add names to this hallowed memorial.
We honor them by committing ourselves and encouraging our colleagues to maintain a level of fitness necessary to carry out our mission and reduce our own risks of the heart attacks and strokes that add names to this hallowed memorial.
We honor them by providing or recruiting enough personnel that firefighters are not forced to attempt superhuman feats in protecting others and the result is added names to this hallowed memorial.
We honor them by providing competent leadership so that poor commanders do not cause names to be added to this hallowed memorial.
We honor them by doing everything we can to reduce the deaths of firefighters
And finally, We honor those who have made the supreme sacrifice in duty by rededicating ourselves to service with integrity, courage, selflessness, love, compassion and excellence.
That is how we best honor and remember our fallen courageous fellow firefighters.
Being a firefighter is a noble and brave calling………..and a calling it surely is.
One hundred years ago Chief Edward Coker of New York City said these words “Firefighters are going to be killed right along. They know it, every one of them………firefighting is a hazardous task. It is dangerous on the face of it…….tackling uncontrolled situations. The risks are plain. Consequently, when someone becomes a firefighter, their act of bravery has already been accomplished.”
100 years later this is still true but the dangers are even more complex.
So we know this is a hazardous undertaking but we cannot give in to the dangers without using all of our skill, technology, experience and alertness to protect ourselves and one-another even as we battle the awesome forces of nature to protect our fellow citizens.
In the book of John, the 15th Chapter 12th and 13th verses, our Lord spoke these words about courage. “Love one another as I have loved you. No one has greater love than this, that someone would lay down his life for his friends.”
Courage cannot be taught or summoned. Courage is a gift from God when we need it most in a tough time.
We honor 26 firefighters here today with a promise to do all we can to reduce the number of grieving families we will host here at this special place in one year. Every fire department attending here today to honor the loss of their own firefighter will testify that the rest of us must do all we can to prevent joining their ranks.
These 26 brave and noble firefighters gave their all so that their communities might live in relative safety. Let us not fail them by giving the mission of firefighting less than our very best effort.
We will not fail them if we live our lives with a sense of duty, integrity, service, courage and honor…….. thus upholding the nobility of the firefighting discipline.
When we pin on our badges we will remember their sacrifice. When we wear the fire helmet, universally recognized symbol of honor and service, we will remember their sacrifice. And when we look into the faces of our fellow firefighters we will see the spirit that they left for us and remember them always.
Let me conclude by sharing some very special words from a fallen firefighter. Father Michael Judge was the Chaplain of the New York City Fire Department on September 11, 2001 and he was killed in the fire command post when the twin towers fell. Earlier in the day he had faxed this message to Fire Headquarters. No better words could be left behind for those of us who carry on the mission of helping others and fighting fires.
“Good days, bad days, but never a boring day in this job.
You do what God has called you to do.
You show up, you put one foot in front of the other,
And you do the job, which is a mystery and a surprise.
You have no idea, when you climb on the rig,
What God is calling you to do.
But he needs you…..so keep going.
Keep supporting each other.
Love each other.
You love this job.
We all do.
What a blessing that is.”
Father Michael Judge, New York City FD.
God Bless our Fallen Brothers.
God Bless their loving families.
God Bless the Fire Departments they served.
God Bless the North Carolina Fire Service.
And God Bless America!
Thank you for the privilege of this day.