Memorial held for fallen HFD firefighters

April 16, 2009 3:22:01 PM PDT
Thousands of firefighters paid tribute to two of their fallen brothers Thursday. [PHOTOS: Images of procession]
[VIDEO: Mayor White speaks at memorial]
[VIDEO: Exec. Asst. HFD Chief Rick Flanagan speaks at memorial]
[VIDEO: HFD Chief Phil Boriske speaks at memorial]
[VIDEO: 'Amazing Grace' by bagpipes]

Houston Fire Department Captain James Harlow and rookie firefighter Damion Hobbs were being remembered as good men who loved their jobs. Thousands of Houston firefighters and firefighters from across the state marched for their fallen comrades.

Captain Harlow was the one known for his cowboy drawl and child-like spirit. Hobbs, the rookie under his command, wanted everyone to know he was the new man on the totem pole at Station 26.

And from Fire Station 26 is where thousands of firefighters made their way to Grace Community Church. The sea of blue was overwhelming. Along the way, Houstonians stopped to pay their respects to the fallen firefighters and those who protect us every day.

That final processional to the memorial service was lengthy. Thousands of firefighters of every rank kept a slow and steady pace. Mayor Bill White and other city officials walked the route, a show of humility and respect for the two fallen firefighters.

The bright red caskets held the bodies of Captain Harlow and Hobbs. They were draped in American flags and passed slowly under the archway made by two ladder trucks.

"These men responded to somebody they never met, tried to protect something they've never owned, and we miss them terribly," said Houston Fire Department Chief Phil Boriske at Thursday's memorial.

"Captain Harlow had a kid-like spirit and it showed every time we played volleyball . He was always in a good mood. You never would have thought he was a 50-year-old man. He would put us younger guys to shame," added Assistant Chief Rick Flanagan, speaking for his firefighters. "Damion, a bold gentleman, quite proud to wear the shield. He put it on and everywhere he went, he wanted them to know that he was the new man on the totem pole at Station 26."

Through the tears, presentations and accolades, the grief was felt by firefighters who came here from as far away as Calgary with a simple, yet poignant message for the families of Captains Harlow and Hobbs.

"They have our support and we're thinking of them and that's really what it boils down to," said Calgary Firefighter Tristan Shanks.

"I just think that to the family members, it gives them the sense that they'll never be forgotten," said Austin Fire Department Chief Rhoda Mae Kerr .

"It means a lot when you look out and see people from every department, every state, every city coming out to support one of their fallen brothers," said Texas City Fire Marshal Dennis Harris. "We take it seriously. The brotherhood is strong and it's a tradition."

"I actually went to high school with Captain Harlow," said Pasadena Fire Department Chief Lanny Armstrong. "We graduated same year, so I've known him a long, long time. So it was pretty poignant to show the family we're behind them."

Private funeral services will be held for the families on Friday.

How you can help

If you want to help the families of the firefighters, you can make a donation to "The 100 Club".

Just mail your donation to the Survivor's Fund to the following:

    The 100 Club Incorporated
    1233 West Loop South, Suite 1250
    Houston, Texas 77027.
The organization helps the families of police officers and firefighters who were killed in the line of duty.

The Last Alarm Club of Houston was founded in 1977 to help families of Houston fire fighters killed or seriously injured in the line of duty. They will be assisting the Harlow and Hobbs families. Contributions are welcomed.

More information is available at www.lastalarmclub.org or by calling 713-223-9166.

- Statement from Houston Professional Fire Fighters Association (HPFFA)

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Houston Fire Department | Cpt. James Harlow and Firefighter Damien Hobbs | Houston Professional Firefighters


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