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The Sound of Honor & Respect

The ceremonial tolling of the bell in memory of those who died in the line of duty is an age old tradition of the Fire Services that dates back over 150 years. The tradition reflects respect and honor to those who gave their lives to their duty.

The men and women of today’s fire service are confronted with a more dangerous work environment than ever before. We are forced to continually change our strategies and tactics to accomplish our tasks.

Our methods may change, but our goals remain the same as they were in the past, to save lives and to protect property, sometimes at a terrible cost. In the past, as fire fighters began their tour of duty, it was the bell that signaled the beginning of that day’s shift. Throughout the day and night, each alarm was sounded by a bell, which summoned these brave souls to fight fires and to place their lives in jeopardy for the good of their fellow citizen. And when the fire was out and the alarm had come to an end, it was the bell that signaled to all the completion of that call. When a fire fighter had died in the line of duty, paying the supreme sacrifice, it was the mournful toll of the bell that solemnly announced a comrades passing.

We utilize these traditions as symbols, which reflect honor and respect on those who have given so much and who have served so well. To symbolize the devotion that these brave souls had for their duty, a special signal of three rings, three times each, represents the end of our comrades’ duties and that they will be returning to quarters. And so, to those who have selflessly given their lives for the good of their fellow man, their tasks completed, their duties well done, to our comrades, their last alarm, they are going home.

A distinctive bell tolling marks the end of an emergency and a return to quarters. In memory of all who died during the attacks on September 11, 2001 the bell is rung five times in series of fives (5 x 5 x 5 x 5 x 5). Multiplied out this equals 3,125, a number very close to the number of people who died as result of the attacks.

“Tolling” a bell refers to the slow ringing of a bell, about once every four to ten seconds. It is this type of ringing that is most often associated with a death, the slow pacebroadcasting a feeling of sadness as opposed to the jubilance and liveliness of quicker ringing.