PHILADELPHIA, Pa. (WTXF) - People in Philadelphia paused to remember those who put their lives on the line in order to protect and take care of others.
A special mass was held at Saint John the Evangelical Catholic Church. The goal was to remember firefighters who have died in the line of duty and to honor all firefighters and paramedics for their service.
The mournful wail of bagpipes led the procession as Philadelphia firefighters gathered for a mass in their honor at St. John the Evangelical Catholic Church in Center City February 17.
"A way to honor them and honor their service," said Kathy Howley
Parishioner Howley began a tradition 11 years ago when, as the church prepared for a renovation, she discovered a long ago fire had nearly destroyed St. John's in 1899. Four firefighters died as a result. Chance. Duffy. Steinle. Shea.
"The statue of the Blessed Mother survived, but pretty much everything else was ruined. It was a two-day fire with harsh weather conditions and a blizzard the day before, We decided it would be a wonderful tradition to honor these four men who died saving our church,"" Howley explained.
The annual mass has sadly expanded to honor more recent Philly firefighters killed in the line of duty. Including 42-year-old Lt. Matt LeTourneau who died just last month battling a north Philadelphia row home blaze.
"Last year at our firefighter mass, he was here. On his day off," said Howley.
LeTourneau there to honor his fellow firefighters. Now they honor him.
As part of the remembrance the blessing of memorial plaques outside the church.
"It has been a challenging month, months for our fire department. I arrived today seeking inspiration," said Commissioner Adam Thiel, and he went on, "We are part of an unbroken legacy of service back to 1736 through 2018."