TOWNSEND -- The bell tolled five times, and again five times, until four sets of five had sounded.
Firefighters and emergency medical services personnel stood in respect, honoring their fallen comrades from across the country, and across the ages.
The traditional sound recalls the means by which firefighters would be summoned to emergencies. Before telephones, patterns rung on the firehouse bell or sounded by horns, broadcast the location of a fire. When a firefighter was killed in action, the bell would toll five, five, five, five, telling all within range of the fatality.
The service on June 9 was one of similar services held in communities across the country to honor firefighters who gave their lives to protect their fellow citizens, said Chief Don Klein. This year, 98 firefighters and EMS personnel died in the line of duty.
Members of the Townsend Fire-EMS Department marched along Turnpike Road behind a bagpiper and gathered at the Firefighters Memorial in front of Spaulding School for the brief ceremony.
The speakers celebrated the connection department members have with each other.
"The impulse of a firefighter to help is not a lonely impulse, but it is shared and agreed upon in every department conversation, every shared meal, every training drill and every company meeting. There is only one reason to wear the uniforms of our departments, and that is to be there when we are needed," Klein said.
"We are here to remember, and we do well to remember. Remembering renews the pain, but that is part of healing. Remembering honors the sacrifices, and that is our duty. Remembering passes on the legacy, and that is our privilege," said the Rev. Kevin Patterson, department chaplain.
Current department members are carrying on in the footsteps of the men and women they were honoring, he said, "We honor them with our presence and words today, but we honor them every day through our readiness to serve as they did."
The firefighters keep alive the memory of their friends in the department who have died. Frank Blanchard, a retired Townsend firefighter, passed away this year. The department will honor him at a later time, said Lt. Bill Elliott.
On Sept. 8, members of the department will hold a golf tournament, raising money for cancer research, in honor of two members who died of the disease. This year will be the third time they have held the event.
It was a busy year for the EMS personnel this year, Elliott said. "The guys do a very good job."
The number and severity of fires was not remarkable this year. Fighting the fires that did occur was made easier by sprinkler systems and other systems working as they should, he said. "We don't mind if we don't go to fires."
Chief Klein had one request for the public. "Whenever you see a firefighter, EMT or police officer, thank them for what they do every day to keep you and your family safe. While we do not seek recognition for the things we do, it is always comforting to know that people do appreciate what we do," he said.