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Text: Bush Honors Firefighters

Sunday, October 7, 2001

Following is the transcript of President Bush's remarks at a memorial service for firefighters at the National Emergency Training Center in Emmitsburg, Md.

BUSH: Thank you very much.

Joe, thank you for those kind words, and thank you for your outstanding service in a difficult time for our great land.

I want to thank Hal Bruno (ph) and the directors of the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation for the outstanding leadership they have shown in recognizing America's heroes.

I want to say thanks to the members of the Maryland delegation who are her. Senator Sarbanes, Senator Mikulski, Congressman Hoyer and Congressman Bartlett, I want to thank you all for being here.

I want to thank the local officials who are here. I want to thank the firefighters from all around America who have come to comfort the families of the fallen.

I want to say hello to the moms and dads and husbands and wives and sons and daughters of the fallen.

Laura and I are honored to be here with you today as we remember the lives and sacrifices of your brave relatives.

Two years ago this weekend I attended a memorial ceremony in New York City honoring fallen firefighters. And standing nearby were Chief Peter Gansi and many others who are now gone. None of us on that day could have imagined what was to come--the scale of the emergency, the enormity of the danger, the magnitude of the evil. Yet each one of those firefighters felt a strong calling and knew its risks.

On September 11, that calling led them into burning towers on a mission of rescue. Within a single hour, more than 300 firefighters were lost. And our nation still mourns.

They did not live to know who had caused the destruction or why. They only knew their duty. And that was to go in, to follow the faintest cry, to search for the trapped and helpless and to save those who could be saved.

A few days ago, one New Yorker described firefighters as the kinds of guys you look up to. Every one of you here knew exactly what he meant.

The courage and loss we saw in New York is found in every community that has laid a firefighter to rest. Hardly a week passes in America when a career or a volunteer firefighter does not fall in the line of duty. Firefighting is a hard and demanding job, and it may at any moment send a person to the hot heat or thick smoke. It's been said that a firefighter's first act of bravery is taking the oath to serve. And all of them serve knowing that one day they may not come home.

Today we honor 101 who did not come home. They're all people who accepted the dangers of firefighting and were last seen on duty. We add their names to this national monument. We do so with pride and with deep gratitude. The nation pays respect to them for their service and their sacrifice.

And we respect you, their families, for your sacrifice, for the heavy burden you carry to this day. The McCormicks (ph) of Arkansas, the Hendricks (ph) of Kentucky, the Pascatores (ph) of Pennsylvania, each lost a son who was not yet 20 years old.

The families of Bo Ralfburn (ph) of Wyoming, Jim Robinson (ph), Missouri, Fred Brane (ph) and Pete Scinell (ph) of New York, Kenneth Just (ph) of Pennsylvania, lost loved ones who were willing to serve even in the latter years of life.

Many were taken during the fullest days of life, that time when we are needed most by the people we love. Kimberly Smith (ph) of Texas was engaged to be married. Robert Crump (ph) of Colorado was home after honorable service in the Marine Corps. Marvin Bartholemew (ph) of Florida had paid his way through college and was working his way up the ranks of the department.

Roger Bookat (ph) was 34 years old when he died, and he was a loving dad. He had a great outlook, and it was summed up on the sign he kept on his locker: "Love your wife, love your life."

All these firefighters loved life. And scripture teaches there is no greater love than to lay down one's life for another.

Sometimes a person cannot know for sure what mark he or she has left on the world. That will never be said of the people we remember today or of their kind.

They were strong and caring people, brave and upright. You could always count on them. You could always look up to them.

This firefighters monument belongs to the nation and represents a national loss. The firefighters belong to you. And I know that loss can never be recovered.

A fireman's widow recently said that her husband was her hero and there's nothing I wouldn't do to have my hero here. That same feeling is shared by many here today, and time will never take it away.

But the years can bring comfort and they can bring hope. You will always know that your hero died in the service of others. You can give one another the strength to go on. You can find the comfort of God, who is with us especially in sorrow.

And you can know today that your loved ones are not forgotten. They hold an honored, cherished place in the memories of their comrades, and an honored place in the memory of our country.

God bless you all.

© 2001 The Washington Post Company


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