- The Washington Times - Sunday, October 7, 2007

EMMITSBURG, Md. — President George Bush today honored 87 firefighters who died last year in the line of duty, consoling family members and saying the profession is a calling, not a job.

“It takes a very special kind of person to be a firefighter,” said President Bush at the National Fallen Firefighters Memorial Service. “When an area becomes too dangerous for everybody else, you take it over. When others are looking for the exits, our firefighters are looking for a way in.”

Several thousand people attended the 26th annual event on a warm fall day on the campus of the National Fire Academy. Among those attending the nearly two-and-a-half-hour program were surviving families from 35 states.

Two Maryland firefighters were honored: Allan M. Roberts, 40, of the Baltimore City Fire Department, and Edward D. Wilburn, 64, of the Deep Creek Volunteer Fire Department.

Mr. Roberts was killed in an early morning fire in October 2006. The intense, fast-moving blaze caused a floor to collapse on top of him. He was the first city firefighter killed in the line of duty since 1995. Mr. Wilber suffered a fatal heart attack while responding to a blaze in December of last year.

John Paul Memory II, of the Carrollton Volunteer Fire Department in Virginia, was also honored. Mr. Memory was only 19 when he collapsed and died in September 2006 while participating in a demonstration in Franklin.

Plaques with the names of 83 male and female firefighters were added to a memorial plaque on the campus. The names of four others, who died in previous years but have yet to be honored, were also added.

Now, more than 3,100 firefighters’ names are permanently at the memorial, according to the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation.

The heat today did not seem to bother most in the crowd, though many were dressed in full firefighter uniforms, including jackets and white hats.

An occasional brisk wind wrapped giant red-white-and-blue flags around tall derricks. Midway through the program, the wind tore down the largest flag, which had been hanging from two tallest derricks behind the memorial.

“Each [firefighter] was a unique individual,” Rep. Steny H. Hoyer, Maryland Democrat, told the crowd. “Each had a different story to tell. …They increased the safety of our community and our country. …We shall never forget their contributions.”

The annual memorial for deceased firefighters was declared in 1981 by President Ronald Reagan.

Chief R. David Paulison, administrator of Federal Emergency Management Agency, said improvement in fire safety continues, then quoted Abraham Lincoln in saying, “These dead shall not have died in vain.”

The federal government purchased the 100-acre facility from St. Joseph’s Catholic College in 1979 to house the academy.

President Bush also said the firefighters’ responses to the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks demonstrate “the bond between firefighters is obviously unique. It is definitely a source of strength, and it’s a reminder that the work here is a calling, not a job.”

He visited Emmitsburg less than a month after the attacks to pay tribute to the more than 300 New York City firefighters killed inside the World Trade Center.

The president closed his speech by saying, “I ask the Almighty’s blessing upon you and may He continue to bless the United States of America.”


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