Sylvia Chambers Wooden remembers well how proud her West Baltimore neighborhood used to be when a fire truck would go screaming down the street with one of their own — her brother, Donald Chambers — on board.
"Everyone would line up, just to see Donald on that truck," she recalled with a smile.
In a somber service at the War Memorial building Saturday morning, Donald O. Chambers was one of 45 names read aloud from an honor roll of active or retired members of the city fire department who died from November 2016 to December 2017. As each name was read, a bell was struck and a flower was placed on a memorial wreath.
"He would have been really honored, that they all remembered him," said his wife, Linda Chambers. "He loved being a firefighter."
The memorial service was a prelude to the department's annual Medals Day ceremony, during which dozens of fire department personnel as well as a handful of civilians were honored for their service over the past year. Saturday's was the 38th annual ceremony.
More than 100 people gathered for the 11 a.m. memorial service, most of them uniformed fire department personnel. The colors were presented by the Baltimore City Fire Department Honor Guard, prayers were read aloud. Bagpiper Sean Davis, a firefighter with Truck 23 out of West Baltimore, closed the service with "Amazing Grace."
Afterward, Brandy Meyers, who grew up in Pigtown and traveled from Philadelphia for the service, could barely hold back the tears as she talked about her father, William Meyers Jr. A 27-year veteran who retired in 1996, he died a year ago this month.
"It means a lot to my sister and me," she said of the service. "Just to feel they're not forgotten, that his service still meant something."
Being a firefighter meant everything to her dad, Brandy Meyers said. That was something, she remembered with a smile, that his family learned to live with.
"If he saw a car accident, he would jump out of the car and go and help," she said. "I remember being late to school because my sister and I are sitting in the back seat of the car, because there was an accident two cars in front. He just got out of the car and helped, stayed there until the police and everybody showed up.
Following the service and a lunch served on the building's ground floor, Mayor Catherine E. Pugh and Fire Chief Niles R. Ford were on hand for the distribution of departmental commendations and service medals.
Among the medal recipients were lieutenants Douglas Warehime and David Guercio and drivers Matthew Coursey and Anthony McLeod. They were awarded the Chief Thomas J. Burke Courage Medal, for rescuing people from a fire at an assisted living facility in Windsor Hills in March 2017.
Exemplary Performance Award commendations were awarded to Lt. Christopher J. Coker, for rescuing a 72-year-old woman from a fire in the 1700 block of E. Lanvale Street in December 2017; Capt. Harry J. Lancellotti and Gregory Nelson, William J. Hartsock and Charles Snow, for assisting victims of a series of accidents along an icy stretch of Interstate-95 between the city and the Howard County line in December 2016; and Captain William Raab, Chanelle Smith and Daniel Clarke for rescuing a man trapped in a burning Barclay rowhome in November 2017.