Saturday, August 16, 2008

Memorial service in Medford; more information

A memorial service was held in Medford, Oregon yesterday for the 9 firefighters that died in the helicopter crash on August 5.

HERE is a gallery of photos taken at the service. You need to see these photos.

KSBY has a short video on their site that shows a few scenes from the service.

Here is a link to a slide show/video of the service, put together by Shari and Ken Downhill of Northwest Timber Fallers.

The Mail Tribune has a video about the service.

An excerpt from a Mail Tribune article:
Friday's tribute began with a procession of some 30 fire trucks representing firefighting companies and agencies from around the West. Leading the procession was seven black vehicles carrying family members.

Grayback firefighters lined each side of the road as the procession entered the fairgrounds under crossed fire ladders. The Grayback crews, all in gray company T-shirts, forest green Nomax pants and boots, then marched solemnly into the amphitheater for the memorial. Most were young men but there was also a sprinkling of young women.

With the families of the fallen sitting up front, the memorial opened with a police honor guard and a bagpipe-and-drum corps. Later, just as the Northwest Regional Fire Pipes and Drums was completing "Amazing Grace," a spotter plane followed by an air tanker roared overhead to honor those killed in the crash. Another air tanker followed, symbolically dropping nine streamers traditionally used to determine wind direction over a fire.

Surviving members of the Grayback crew, including Schroeder, who is wearing a chin brace, presented the families of those who died with American flags, chromed Pulaskis — a combined ax and hoe that is the favored tool of wildland firefighters — and polished red hard hats for the firefighters. The families of the pilots received shiny white flight helmets.

Closing out the ceremony was a Grayback firefighter who rang the fire bell 15 times in a series of five rings each, a historical way of letting other firefighters know one of their own has fallen.

In addition to Catherine Renno, others speaking at the memorial included U.S. Forest Service Chief Abigail Kimbell, State Forester Marvin Brown, U.S. Rep. Greg Walden, R-Hood River, Grayback President Mike Wheelock, Carson Executive Vice President Steve Metheny and Tom Harbour, director of fire and aviation management for the U.S. Forest Service. Oregon Gov. Ted Kulongoski was in attendance.

"It is an unhappy truth that firefighters' memorial services are always about the passing of the very best men and women our society can produce," Metheny said. "And these men are proof of that truth."

Many in the crowd began weeping when former smoke jumper Wheelock spoke.

"To the families, I am so sorry we did not bring your loved ones home," he said, his voice breaking. "Families and firefighters, we will never, never forget the firefighters that were injured or lost their lives on Iron 44."

During her presentation, Renno, whose husband, Bruce LeMay, offered a prayer for those killed or injured in the crash as well as others who have died in service to fellow citizens or the nation, said they have had some tough days since the crash.

"It was a comfort to my heart to learn, by talking to some of the guys that made it, that they weren't tired and worn out as they got onto the helicopter," she said. "They were pretty jazzed. They were pretty happy because they had held the line. That does our hearts good to know that, that our sons on their last day held the line."
Photo courtesy of Mail Tribune

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