Police officers, firefighters, and public officials gathered at the Living Flame Memorial in Philadelphia’s Franklin Square Park Wednesday for an annual service honoring those who’ve died while on duty or because of injuries sustained on the job.
The assembly paid particular attention to firefighter Gabriel Lee, officer Douglas Bamberger, and officer Raymond Diaz Jr., all of whom died in 2016.
Lee, 42, passed away during a late shift last July after responding to a number of calls. Two months later, in September, Diaz, 47, succumbed to injuries sustained in an on-duty automobile accident. In October, Bamberger, 42, suffered a heart attack at the city’s Criminal Justice Center.
Mayor Jim Kenney, the son of a firefighter, offered their families his condolences.
“It is my hope on this beautiful day, in this beautiful city, that all of our brothers and sisters and all of your family members are gathered together in heaven looking down on this space and understanding how much we miss them and how much we love them,” he said.
Since Philadelphia began keeping records, 291 firefighters and 272 police officers have died in the line of duty, according to event organizers.
Families of the fallen were invited to lay red and white flowers on a series of stones commemorating those lost. Members of the Philadelphia Police and Fire Pipes and Drums Band held a steady tune throughout the procession, and helped close the ceremony with a rendition of “Amazing Grace.”
Fire Commissioner Adam Thiel, a well-traveled emergency services administrator who arrived in Philadelphia last year, said the joint ceremony reflected a rare unity between the city’s fire and police departments.
“It’s a special thing here,” he said. “It really means a lot to our members to know we have each other’s back.”