Edmonds salutes heroes in firefighter memorial

By Marcie Miller

Herald Writer

EDMONDS — "Heroes do indeed walk among us," Edmonds Fire Chief Tom Tomberg said Saturday.

As bagpipers played "Amazing Grace," hundreds of people from Edmonds joined in the public dedication of a memorial for fallen firefighters in honor of the late Capt. Bill Angel of the Edmonds Fire Department.

Many of those in attendance were friends, family and co-workers of Angel, who died in 1995 from cancer linked to his long career as a firefighter.

Many others came to honor the New York firefighters who died in the Sept. 11 terrorist attack.

Last year, Edmonds Fire Fighters Local 1828 and the city of Edmonds began construction of the memorial in front of the new fire station on Sixth Avenue with the intention of dedicating it to Angel. It is a replica of the 17-foot-tall Fallen Fire Fighters Memorial in Colorado Springs built by the International Association of Fire Fighters.

Titled "Somewhere, Everyday," the stone monument is topped by a bronze statue of a firefighter climbing down a ladder carrying a baby.

Sept. 15 was set long ago as the annual day of observance at the memorial in Colorado, but this week’s events made the dedication in Edmonds an especially poignant ceremony.

Tomberg said it was a comfort to know Angel was watching over them at this time, and he acknowledged the recent death of Marysville firefighter Jeff Thornton, who also succumbed to cancer.

"He and Bill are staffing an aid car in heaven," he said, pausing to regain his composure. "And they’re probably arguing about who gets to drive."

Tomberg noted the 202 firefighters and 57 police officers who died in the attack on the World Trade Center "died living common ideals we all share."

Capt. Bob Schmitt of the Edmonds Fire Department was instrumental in making the monument a reality after seeing the original. Angel’s name is etched into the Wall of Honor at the Colorado memorial.

Schmitt’s wife, Sini, said he worked with Angel in the department for 17 years, and the two families were very close.

Angel’s widow, Marlene, said it was nice for people to gather together in times like this and not be isolated.

Edmonds firefighter Jim Martin worked with Angel for eight years.

"You couldn’t replace him," Martin said. "He was fine leader, and we miss him every day."

As fire department volunteer chaplain Ken Davis concluded his invocation, a loudspeaker began playing country singer Lee Greenwood’s "Proud To Be an American." The line "I won’t forget the men who died to give that right to me" took on a special meaning after Tuesday.

As Marlene Angel observed about her late husband, and all firefighters, "They love their jobs — you can’t take the firefighter out of them."

You can call Herald Writer Marcie Miller at 425-339-3292

or send e-mail to mmiller@heraldnet.com.

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