Although his untimely death was nearly a year-and-a-half ago, time has not forgotten Gene Meir Kirchner, a member of the Reisterstown Volunteer Fire Company who died at age 25 on May 2, 2013, eight days after he was critically injured while attempting to rescue someone from a house fire.
On Sunday, Oct. 12, Kirchner was honored at the 33rd Annual National Fallen Firefighters Memorial Service in Emmitsburg, Md. He and Perryville firefighter Capt. David Barr Jr. were two of 98 firefighters who died in 2013 and nine who died in previous years who were honored at the service, which was held at the National Fire Academy. It drew more than 5,000 people, including members of Congress and other dignitaries, and included participation by members of the fire service, honor guard units and pipe and drum units from all over the country.
The names of those honored were added to the National Fallen Firefighters Memorial on the academy grounds. Kirchner joined the Reisterstown company at age 14 as a junior firefighter. His twin brother, Will, and his sister, Shelly Brezicki, also volunteer there.
“It came very naturally to him,” Brezicki said of her brother’s fire service. “I think he wanted to have a purpose. He found that every day he wanted to do something that bettered someone else.”Kirchner, who graduated from Owings Mills High School, spent most of his time at the fire station, with his family or at his job as a dispatch controller with Butler Medical transport. He was posthumously honored by the Reisterstown Fire Company with a Medal of Honor and also at Fallen Heroes Day at Dulaney Valley Memorial Gardens in May, exactly one year after his death.
While Brezicki said her brother was not one to seek recognition, she hopes people find inspiration in his sacrifice. “Our biggest hope is that people remember that Gene ran into a burning building to save a stranger, and there is nothing more heroic than that,” she said. “He ran into a building fully knowing the risk that was involved to save someone he didn’t know.”