President honors Toledo's fallen firefighters at moving ceremony

President honors Toledo's fallen firefighters at moving ceremony

EMMITSBURG, MD (WTOL) - Toledo firefighters, Steven Machcinski and Jamie Dickman, were two of many fallen heroes honored at the National Fallen Firefighters Memorial in Emmitsburg, Maryland as part of a weekend dedicated to honoring those lost and helping the surviving families cope and bond with others dealing with the same grief. WTOL 11 was the only station with the families of Machcinski and Dickman for the moving service.

"We're in a club that no parent wants to be in. We were forced into it and we're there. We don't want it, but we accept it. And it's so hard, but our children would want us to move on, so we get up and we move," said Jamie's mom Linda Dickman.

The Dickmans were one of 87 families invited to the National Fallen Firefighters Memorial in Emmitsburg. Though honored, they say it is an invitation no family wants.

"It's sad. It's sad to know what we are going through, they are also going through as well. It's comforting, but sad at the same time to know you have people who understand what you are going through," said Jamie's sister Libby Chenney.

On Saturday, the families had a chance to visit the grounds of the national memorial park guarded by homeland security. There a brick monument is surrounded by plaques baring the names of other fallen firefighters from over the years. Nearby an eternal flame burns and the "walk of honor" connects it to the 9/11 memorial and chapel.

Surviving families came together in a moving candle light vigil and each firefighter was remembered with pictures and song.

Steve Machcinski's brother, along with Jamie Dickmans widow, children, parents and siblings, learned they are not alone in their grief.

"Just being around other surviving survivors was beautiful," said Libby.

Meeting other survivors in meaningful activities planned just for them throughout the weekend, gave moms, dads, sisters, and wives a chance to bond with families dealing with the same heartache from across the country.

"When we were going around the room and telling our stories, it was amazing how many characteristics that these boys all had in common. They loved helping, loved the community, always helping the community and I thought that's my story, these boys have so much in common," said Linda.

She says she exchanged her number with other mothers who have lost their sons and says it's another way to help her continue to keep moving forward, something she knows her son Jamie would want her to do.

On Sunday, President Barack Obama met with each family, including the families of Privates Steven Machcinski and Jamie Dickman and members of the Toledo Fire Department, following a special memorial service.

"I keep calling it bittersweet. I'm very honored that they're honoring Jamie, our son, and I do appreciated it," said Linda. 

In addition ,the Dickmans and others were presented with a flag that flew over the Capitol, a small gesture to show these families the nation is grieving along with them.

"What they did was important, and their deaths were not in vain. Their value to our community and our country is beyond description," said Toledo Fire Department Chief Luis Santiago. "It was a great tribute to our firefighters and the rest of the firefighters who gave their lives. This is a very proud profession and today was another example."

Toledo Firefighter Matt Conway was the Dickman's family escort, helping them to cope with this emotional weekend.

"I'm going to have to come up with words to describe this. It's incredible the brotherhood," said Conway. "The families have been very strong through this whole thing. They have their moments when they break down, but it's good to be around families who have gone through similar situations."

President Obama spoke for 12 minutes at the ceremony, honoring the firefighters for their 'selfless profession.'

"These are extraordinary people we honor here today. These are extraordinary Americans. They set an example for us all," said President Obama.

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