- The Washington Times - Monday, October 7, 2002

A sea of solemn firefighters from around the country, marching to bagpipes, formed a procession behind 80 buses full of the family members of the 442 firefighters who died in 2001.
The Procession of Honor, which began on Constitution Avenue, concluded at the MCI Center on Seventh Street, where an American flag hung from two extended firetruck ladders to form an arch.
"To the family of these humble fallen heroes, the thought that these firefighters loved going to work every day, hopefully that thought will see you through," said Tom Ridge, the White House's director of homeland security.
Mr. Ridge, speaking to hundreds of firefighters, their family members and the survivors of those killed in the line of duty, said his job was "not nearly as impossible as the jobs of firefighters."
Throughout the three-hour ceremony, audience members wiped tears from their eyes.
Jim Smagala Jr., a New York firefighter who helped carry the body of the first casualty from the south tower on September 11, attended the memorial service to honor his brother, who died when the north tower collapsed.
Stanley Smagala Jr. of Deer Park, N.Y., had "a great sense of humor," his brother said.
"This was a nice time to remember him," Mr. Smagala said. "I think the music is what touched me the most."
Between patriotic songs from a children's choir and several professional singers, the Honor Roll of the fallen firefighters was read, with family and friends rising in turn to salute their loved one's photo.
"This was a very moving experience," said Lucy Christoffer of Chicago, who brought her children Alyssa, 7, and Charles, 9, to pay tribute to their father. Mrs. Christoffer's husband, Willard Christoffer, died May 14 after falling from a 65-foot ladder during a training exercise.
The ceremony honored the 347 firefighters who died in the World Trade Center on September 11 and another 95 firefighters from 34 states killed in action during the year including Clarence Kreitzer of the Bowie Volunteer Fire Department and Gilmore W. Stitley III of Citizens Truck Company in Frederick, Md.
In the last 20 years, 55 Maryland firefighters have been killed on duty, 46 from Virginia and seven from the District.
The $3 million ceremony was funded by National Fallen Firefighters Foundation contributions, the largest of which was $500,000 from the Fire Chiefs of Japan, said spokesman Jeffrey Richardson.
The annual event was moved from Emmitsburg, Md., to the District to accommodate the larger-than-usual number of attendees, Mr. Richardson said.


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