Thousands of firefighters from across the country, many with badges shrouded in black, joined Houston residents Wednesday, June 5, 2013 to honor the four firefighters killed last week in a massive hotel fire. The service began with the victims’ families processing in one by one as firefighters throughout the stadium stood and saluted them. I was honored to with the Robert Garner family. To comfort them in any way I could during this extremely difficult time. Here are a few of the moving images that I captured during my time with them. It was so challenging to be a “part” of all that was happening and yet trying to “apart” from it so that I can capture the many who came to honor Robert Garner, Anne Sullivan, Robert Bebee and Matthew Renaud. All brave souls. All courageous. Always remembered.
“Anne (Sullivan) became fast friends with Robert Garner, who we are also honoring today. He was the probationary firefighter before he took Anne under his wing, even by helping her do the dishes, despite direct orders not to.” —Mary Moore Sullivan, Anne Sullivan’s mother. Houston Fire Chief Terry Garrison saluted this honor guard member, received from him an American flag and a return salute, then turned on his heels and knelt before the relatives of a firefighters, Robert Garner, Anne Sullivan, Robert Bebee and Matthew Renaud. He handed them the folded flag, offering a few quiet words of comfort to each.
Texas Gov. Rick Perry Honored the Fallen Houston Firefighters as he spoke during the memorial honoring them. “These are hard days. It is a painful day. But it’s also a necessary day. It is our duty to honor these four individuals represented here. Four people who sacrificed everything in the service of their community,” said Perry. Each of the families were presented an IAFF solid gold Medal of Honor during the memorial. The gold medal is the union’s highest honor and it is given to the families of every IAFF member who makes the supreme sacrifice in the line of duty. In addition to the medal the names of Robert Garner, Anne Sullivan, Robert Bebee and Matthew Renaud will be immortalized in the granite wall at the IAFF Falen Firefighter Memorial in Colorado Springs, CO.
Houston Fire Chief Terry Garrison’s Speech:
“Mayday, The internationally recognized word used to send a distress signal to an entire department alerting them that one or more of their members are in jeopardy. It is also a signal that Firefighters fear hearing the most.
On Friday, May 31, 2013 the Mayday alarm was heard throughout the Houston Fire Department, which tragically resulted in the most catastrophic loss of lives in the history of our department. We lost four of our very brave members that day.
Our hearts are broken but our spirits are strong. There is little we can do to help heal the hurt we feel. However we can stay strong in spirit, celebrate their lives and honor their service. We can continue to do our jobs to the best of our ability.
We can stand united as an organization and as an extended family to continually ensure that we provide the highest level of customer service, and always do our upmost to ensure firefighter safety.
Firefighters across this country acknowledge and accept the inherent risks that come with our job, and we all willingly take the Firefighter Oath of Service-in part vowing to serve the citizens of our communities with bravery, empathy and integrity.
The Houston Fire Department averages 850 calls a day; that includes approximately a dozen working fires each shift. Our brave men and women continuously work to help keep the citizens of our city out of harm’s way. That’s just a normal day in the life of a Houston Firefighter.
As the Fire Chief of this exceptional organization, I stand before you today; respectful, humbled, and extremely proud of all our Houston Fire Department members.
I’m especially proud of Cpt. Mattew Renaud, Engineer Operator Robert Bebee, Firefighter Robert Garner, and Firefighter Anne Sullivan — for they paid the ultimate price in the line of duty.
As every Houston firefighter readily does; they quickly responded to the call of duty last Friday, and fulfilling our department motto of Courage, Commitment, and Compassion proceeded to do their jobs.
To the families and loved ones of our fallen firefighters, let me say that I recognize your sacrifice and I thank you; for you gave more than what is ever expected of anyone — you gave a part of yourself, you gave your loved ones!
We can never fully convey our sorrow, gratitude, and admiration for these brave individuals, and we can only speculate on what future contributions they may have made to our department,
But as it stands today, they gave it their all and for that we will be forever in their debt and we will never forget.
When the Mayday sounded last Friday here in Houston, I truly believe our members left this earthly place and immediately stood at attention on the row call in Heaven.
And rest assured Heaven received an amazing crew; Captain Renaud, Engineer Operator Bebee, Firefighter Garner and Firefighter Sullivan who I know are ready for any task they are assigned.
I know this in my heart because I believe that when we take our last breath on earth; we take our very next breath in Heaven.
God Bless the Houston Fire Department and the citizens of Houston.”