SPRINGFIELD, Ill. - First responders from across Illinois gathered outside the Capitol Friday morning to honor the lives of seven firefighters who died during 2019 and 2020. Gov. JB Pritzker and state lawmakers also joined the ceremony to remember the fallen.
Family members and first responders come together for this ceremony each year, hoping to hear fewer names read. Unfortunately, roughly 100 firefighters in the United States die every year.
"They run toward danger so others can run for safety," said Pritzker. "They risk injury so others can survive, they endure trauma to alleviate ours."
The governor joined a bipartisan group of lawmakers standing side by side with fire leaders. The state canceled last year's memorial service due to the COVID-19 pandemic. So, this was the first time for families of fallen firefighters to come together.
They honored the lives of Captain Jacob Ringering, firefighters Kody Vanfossan, Mario Araujo, Dylan Cunningham, Robert Reisinger, Edward Singleton, and paramedic Robert Truevillian.
"To those who are grieving today, I assure you that those you loved and lost will be remembered. It's our honor as a state to remember them," Pritzker said.
Gold badge families
Illinois fire leaders later presented Line of Duty Death Gold Badges to family members of the seven firefighters who died.
"There are no words capable of filling the void that has been left in your hearts," said Illinois State Fire Marshal Matt Perez. "But we know that our brothers left this earth doing what they were born to do and doing what they loved."
Perez said the spirit of the fallen first responders inspires others to do better and be better. The family members also received flowers and wreaths to honor each of the men taken too soon.
"In the face of tragedy, we gather each other," said Chief James Grady III, Executive Director of the Illinois Fire Chiefs Association. "After the assignment is complete, we make sure that everyone goes home. And those that don't make it home, we stay with them until their family is brought to them."
The state later presented awards to firefighters who demonstrated excellence and professionalism. They also honored the first responders lost 20 years ago in response to the terrorist attacks on September 11.