The federal shutdown couldn't stop the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation from hosting its annual National Memorial Service in Emmitsburg on Sunday. Eighty-one fallen firefighters from across the country were remembered in a morning ceremony held at the PNC Sports Arena Mount St. Mary's University.
The shutdown closed the National Emergency Training Center in Emmitsburg, which houses the memorial, so officials moved events to other facilities in the area to accommodate thousands of people who came for the weekend events.
On Saturday, following a candlelight vigil, family members of fallen firefighters visited the memorial after foundation members worked our arrangements with the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the U.S. States Fire Administration to gain access even though the grounds were closed.
"They were able to see where the names of their fallen family members will eventually be," said Bob Shilling, a spokesman for the firefighters foundation.
Shilling said despite the shutdown and some uncertainty about logistics, the weekend drew a crowd that was comparable previous years. Though he did not have a crowd estimate, he said the arena at Mount St. Mary's was packed.
The university and firefighter organizations across Maryland pitched in to help overcome obstacles presented by the shutdown, he said. For instance, the Anne Arundel Fire Department county sent a recruit class to Emmitsburg to help move computers and other needed equipment off the training center grounds to the university; and Howard County's Department of Fire and Rescue Services provided a mobile command center, and also offered sleeping arrangements for some of the visiting honor guards that took part in the ceremony.
"It was incredible," Shilling said, "When we talk about a brotherhood – and of course now we say a sisterhood, too — this was it."
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