The 36th annual Fallen Heroes Day returned this year at Dulaney Valley Memorial in Timonium, in a traditional in-person ceremony, honoring those who lost their lives in the line of duty.
The ceremony, held in the Fallen Garden, remembered the police officers, firefighters and emergency responders who died the last two years and two others who died before Fallen Heroes Day was established in 1986. Some family members of those being honored were in attendance.
“It’s really nice to be back together so that we can to properly acknowledge the sacrifices that have been made particularly in the very trying year,” Baltimore County Executive John Olszewski Jr. said.
Traditionally held the first Friday in May each year, last year’s Fallen Heroes Day ceremony could not be held because of the coronavirus pandemic.
“Today with our deepest gratitude, we mourn their loss and we honor their memory,” Olszewski said during the memorial address.
Keynote speaker Pete O’Neal covered the individuals honored in Friday’s ceremony as a photojournalist.
“I know you, I know your families, I know your sons, your daughters, your husbands, your wives,” he said. “I covered their stories. I was there and we had many conversations. Standing up here today I’m not just saying Pete O Neal covered your stories. I’ve lived your stories, I was a part of your stories.”
Gov. Larry Hogan also paid his respects in a virtual message played at the ceremony.
“We remember each of them as true heroes, not because of the way they died but because of the way they lived selflessly serving every single day in the communities they loved,” Hogan said. “Our state will always be eternally grateful and they will never be forgotten. Today we salute all of the heroes that we lost.”
Five individuals who died over the last two years were honored at Friday’s ceremony, including: Officer Kyle David Olinger of the Montgomery County Police Department, firefighter Michael “Mike” Powers of the Libertytown Volunteer Fire Department in Frederick County, assistant engineer Otis Isaacs, Jr. of the North East Fire Company in Cecil County, paramedic Jeffrey Lee “Jeff” Schaffer of the Taneytown Volunteer Fire Company in Carroll County and Cpl. Christine Peters of the Greenbelt Police Department in Prince George’s County.
Cpl. Keith Heacook of the Delmar Police Department was also honored. The 22-year veteran died April 28 following an assault three days earlier when he responded to a fight in progress.
Additionally, one police officer and one firefighter who died in the line of duty before Fallen Heroes Day was established in 1986, were remembered.
Alexander C. Johnson of Rescue Hose Company No. 1 in Annapolis died on July 13, 1958. He collapsed while fighting a warehouse fire on Shaw Street in Annapolis, and later died at the hospital as a result of heart failure.
Officer Milton I. Spell of the Baltimore City Police Department, who died on Aug. 15, 1974, was also honored. Spell, who was on foot patrol, was shot and killed after stopping a suspected drunken driver.
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There are 73 members of the public safety community buried at the Fallen Heroes Memorial.