On the Sunday right before Memorial Day in 2015, we arrived at Artillery Ridge Campground in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania to spend the week touring the National Battlefield. Prior to getting off our exit, we made note of a brown National Landmark sign that read: National Fallen Firefighter’s Memorial.
The following morning, we ate a quick breakfast, drank our coffees and hopped on my Harley as Dan’s was out of commission with engine issues to head to the Memorial. We two-up’d our way to Emmittsburg and then took the exit we saw the brown sign pointing to. However, there was no other signs showing pointing to it’s direction. So, we pulled off the side of the road and Google Mapped it…and this is where where it took us:
We both were thinking, ‘Seriously’??
We asked ourselves why this ‘National Historical Site’ memorial would be locked tighter than Fort Knox? We had to have taken a wrong turn.
So, we Google Mapped it again. After recalculating, the new directions took us to a different entrance that had a manned gate with a guard shack. We would have taken a photo but I’m sure NSA probably would had a problem with that. There were cameras everywhere. We approached the security gate and asked politely how to get to the National Fallen Firefighters Memorial and the guard told us we were in the right place.
He proceeded to ask for our ID’s being this was obviously federal property, Dan handed over his Retired Military ID and driver’s license and I was closely following with the same but we were interrupted sternly by the guard who asked for ‘only’ for our drivers licenses. We proceeded politely but this is where it got interesting.
The guard took both of our licenses into the security booth and came out with two laminated guest passes that we clip onto our clothing. The guard KEPT our licenses in the guard booth. This didn’t sit well with either of us but considering this was ‘federal property’, but what were we supposed to do?
He opened the gate for us to ride through to the memorial. We then noticed this was also where the United States Fire Administration, the National Fire Academy and National FEMA offices were located hence, the reason it was locked tight like a military base. Regardless, someone please tell us why they would place a public ‘National Memorial’ in a prohibitive and inaccessible location?
Once we arrived to the site of the Memorial, we’d forgotten the invasive check-in process. We were taken by the beauty of the grounds; stone walls with iron gating topped with the outline of the Firefighter’s Maltese Crosses and scripted brick pavers of donors and memoriams leading to two locations.
One of the brick paver walkways led to this beautifully designed circular Memorial of Fallen Firefighters nationwide. The entry point led us to view large brass plaques of every year since 1981 listing the individual states and their Fallen Firefighters respectively.
We noticed the flags were half-staffed; thinking the reason was because it was Memorial Day. However, we learned that these flags are lowered at half mast every day a Firefighter is killed in the line of duty. The latest being from Claremore, Oklahoma; Capt. Jason Farley.
Here’s some photos of inside of the circle:
The Eternal Flame
Notably, both were hand-polished to sparkle in the sun.
Here’s of the brass plaques that dated back to 1981, listing the year, states and Fallen Firefighters. This one below was for 2004. It was sad to see so many names of Fallen Firefighters listed.
As we exited the circle, we followed the brick pavers that led to the 9-11 Fallen Firefighter’s Memorial. It was quite an emotional walk as every other brick was inscribed with the name of each Fallen Firefighter who was killed in the line of duty in the World Trade Center towers. We read them all. Our hearts felt heavy as there were ‘so many’.
Then we noticed a familiar name; New York City Fallen Firefighter’s name; Jeffery Palazzo
Palazzo, age 33 at the time, was one of eleven members of Rescue Company 5 who were lost in the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center. The reason we recognized his name is Jeffery was also a member of the Coast Guard Reserves. He was one of our brothers in blue.
After reading all of the names of those Fallen from the terrorist attacks in New York City, our eyes scaled the huge replica sculpture of the three firefighters from the notorious in the photograph seen around the world following the days of the attacks. They were huge.
To show scale of the sculpture, Dan placed his foot next to one of the Firefighter’s.
Here, I stood in front of the Firefighters’ sculpture to show scale:
After spending a couple hours wiping tears and honoring our Fallen Firefighters by visiting their memorial on such a special day, we left with such emotional appreciation of those who ‘run into burning buildings while others run out’. We turned in our visitor badges, got our licenses back and rode off to get some hoagies nearby for lunch. It was truly a site we’re glad we took the time to visit while we were in the area.
If you’re visiting Gettysburg…
If you’re in the vicinity of Emmitsburg, MD, we encourage everyone to take the time to visit this beautiful and somber Memorial Site. Please be sure to have photo ID (prefer drivers license as stated above).