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Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz

Fallen Heroes Day
May 5, 2017

Good afternoon. Speaking for the people of Baltimore County, I thank you for the opportunity to once again recognize Maryland’s fallen heroes—the men and women of our police, fire, EMS and correctional agencies who have given their lives in service to their citizens.

We are grateful to Dulaney Valley Memorial Gardens for giving us the chance each spring to come together and reflect on the magnitude of what these people have done. This is a somber day, to be sure, especially when it comes to honoring the recently fallen, whose loss is still felt so keenly.

At the same time, this day gives cause for optimism. In these cynical, angry times, it offers sorely needed reassurance about the human spirit and the potential of people to do what is right and what is good.

America finds itself at a unique, and perhaps uniquely disturbing, era in its history; a time when we are faced with questions of what kind of country this is and should be. See changes in technology, economics and demographics have us reeling. Every day, it seems, we watch the subsequent turmoil bring out the worst in people: The petty. The close-minded. The venal. The cruel.

Videos, images and headlines degrade faith in our fellow man. Scroll through your Facebook feed, surf the cable channels, and some days we are left with a sense that the world is a selfish, even brutal place. The richest among us strive for more riches. Insults are an art form. Stupidity and even criminal misdeeds are broadcast—proudly, it often seems—for public consumption. 

A daily diet of such information can leave us feeling that our interactions with others are ruled mainly by disagreement and conflict. In this environment, civic-mindedness and civility feel old-fashioned and out of place. The greater, nobler virtues—charity, caring, sacrifice—seem rarer still.

This ceremony provides a much-needed correction to that perspective.

Captain William Miller and Fireman Carl Dill

For all the physical beauty of this event—the flags unfurled in the sun, the synchronized step of honor guards, the polished brass and the blast of a fired salute—it’s the stories that make this day special; the stories of ordinary people who chose lives of service, accepted some degree of risk, and were willing to give all when fate asked them to do that.

One of the wonderful traditions of this Fallen Heroes Day is the practice of honoring specific fallen heroes from years past. I’m proud that this year Dulaney Valley Memorial Gardens has chosen to remember two Baltimore County firefighters who died 62 years ago in a massive Catonsville shopping center fire, Captain William Miller and Fireman Carl Dill.

Our local Baltimore County Fire Department history book tells the story of this fire and how these men somehow became separated from their colleagues amidst the flames and smoke.

The next day, rescuers found Fireman Dill on his back, arms outstretched, with Captain Miller lying, face down, across his body. The speculation was that Captain Miller had been trying to carry his companion, who had suffered broken bones, to safety.

The fire chief at the time, Anthony Orban, described Captain Miller as the kind of man who never would leave a partner in trouble, and Fireman Dill as “absolutely fearless.”

The latter statement was, perhaps, was something of an overstatement, for surely there was fear while that fire raged and those two men confronted their peril. They were not made of steel, nor were any of those we remember here today.

A Celebration of the Best in Humanity

These were husbands, fathers, brothers, sons; mothers, daughters, sisters, wives and friends who knew fear and uncertainty and who wanted to go home at the end of the day. Today we talk of angels and heroes, but the courage and selflessness of the fallen matters much more when we remember that they were simply people.

Here, we celebrate the best that human beings can be.

Here, the stories behind the names on the monument remind us that debate about public safety policy and theory must never diminish respect for the dangerous and difficult work our firefighters, police officers, EMS personnel and correctional officers have chosen to do.

Here, we find an oasis in a divided world; a place to unite in tribute of public service, sacrifice and the willingness to die for something more important than ourselves.

For this, we feel tremendous gratitude. We also feel uplifted.

 
Revised August 25, 2017         

 

Contact

County Executive,
Don Mohler
Phone: 410-887-2450

Contact the County Executive.

Request a ceremonial document.

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