EMMITSBURG, Md. – President Bush on Sunday honored fallen firefighters for their dedication and service to the nation.
From the Sept. 11 attacks to Hurricane Katrina, "there were firefighters from around the country there to help," Bush said at a ceremony where he and others paid tribute to firefighters killed on the job.
"The bond between firefighters is obviously unique. It is definitely a source of strength and it's a reminder that the work here is a calling, not a job."
A plaque with the names of 87 firefighters who died in the line of duty last year was added to the National Fallen Firefighters Memorial on the campus at the National Fire Academy. The names of four others killed in previous years and not honored before also were added.
"It takes a special kind of person to be a firefighter," the president told their families and others in the audience. "It begins with a different sense of direction. When an area becomes too dangerous for everybody else, you take it over. When others are looking for the exits, our firefighters are looking for the way in."
In his speech, Bush mentioned three of the fallen by name: Kevin A. Apuzzio, of the East Franklin Volunteer Fire Department in Somerset, N.J.; John Destry Horton, of Rush Springs, Okla.; and Amy L. Schnearle-Pennywitt, of Ann Arbor, Mich. He briefly recounted their stories and wondered, "Where do people like this get their courage?"
Plaques surrounding the memorial, created in 1981, now show the names of more than 3,100 firefighters, according to the National Fallen Firefighters Foundation. The fallen include five U.S. Forest Service firefighters who died from injuries sustained last year from a fire in California's San Bernardino National Forest that investigators say was deliberately set.
Bush also visited Emmitsburg less than a month after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, paying tribute to the more than 300 New York City firefighters killed in the strikes on the World Trade Center.
Speaking in praise of the commitment by first responders, the president said Sunday: "And to all Americans: Across our great country, homes still stand and families can go about their lives because firefighters put themselves in harm's way to protect us. So when you walk by a firehouse, or see an ambulance on the street corner, take a moment to go up and say, 'Thank you."'