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Thousands of firefighters from across the country, many with badges shrouded in black, joined Houston residents Wednesday, June 5, 2013 to honor the four firefighters killed two years ago in a massive hotel fire. The service began with the victims’ families processing in one by one as firefighters throughout the stadium stood and saluted them. I was honored to with the Robert Garner family. To comfort them in any way I could during this extremely difficult time. Here are a few of the moving images that I captured during my time with them. It was so challenging to be a “part” of all that was happening and yet trying to “apart” from it so that I can capture the many who came to honor Robert Garner, Anne Sullivan, Robert Bebee and Matthew Renaud. All brave souls. All courageous. Always remembered.
“Mayday, The internationally recognized word used to send a distress signal to an entire department alerting them that one or more of their members are in jeopardy. It is also a signal that Firefighters fear hearing the most.
On Friday, May 31, 2013 the Mayday alarm was heard throughout the Houston Fire Department, which tragically resulted in the most catastrophic loss of lives in the history of our department. We lost four of our very brave members that day.
Our hearts are broken but our spirits are strong. There is little we can do to help heal the hurt we feel. However we can stay strong in spirit, celebrate their lives and honor their service. We can continue to do our jobs to the best of our ability.
We can stand united as an organization and as an extended family to continually ensure that we provide the highest level of customer service, and always do our upmost to ensure firefighter safety.
Firefighters across this country acknowledge and accept the inherent risks that come with our job, and we all willingly take the Firefighter Oath of Service-in part vowing to serve the citizens of our communities with bravery, empathy and integrity.
The Houston Fire Department averages 850 calls a day; that includes approximately a dozen working fires each shift. Our brave men and women continuously work to help keep the citizens of our city out of harm’s way. That’s just a normal day in the life of a Houston Firefighter.
As the Fire Chief of this exceptional organization, I stand before you today; respectful, humbled, and extremely proud of all our Houston Fire Department members.
I’m especially proud of Cpt. Mattew Renaud, Engineer Operator Robert Bebee, Firefighter Robert Garner, and Firefighter Anne Sullivan — for they paid the ultimate price in the line of duty.
As every Houston firefighter readily does; they quickly responded to the call of duty last Friday, and fulfilling our department motto of Courage, Commitment, and Compassion proceeded to do their jobs.
To the families and loved ones of our fallen firefighters, let me say that I recognize your sacrifice and I thank you; for you gave more than what is ever expected of anyone — you gave a part of yourself, you gave your loved ones!
We can never fully convey our sorrow, gratitude, and admiration for these brave individuals, and we can only speculate on what future contributions they may have made to our department,
But as it stands today, they gave it their all and for that we will be forever in their debt and we will never forget.
When the Mayday sounded last Friday here in Houston, I truly believe our members left this earthly place and immediately stood at attention on the row call in Heaven.
And rest assured Heaven received an amazing crew; Captain Renaud, Engineer Operator Bebee, Firefighter Garner and Firefighter Sullivan who I know are ready for any task they are assigned.
I know this in my heart because I believe that when we take our last breath on earth; we take our very next breath in Heaven.
God Bless the Houston Fire Department and the citizens of Houston.”
Years ago, when I lived in Los Angeles, my father introduced me to Joel Osteen and his Worldwide TV broadcast from Lakewood Church in Houston, Texas. Fast-forward a couple of years and I’m flying to Houston to take family portraits for Joel’s Senior Video Producer at Lakewood Church.
Long story short, I meet an incredible woman who I also photographed while in Houston who would eventually become my wife and then she introduces me to the rest of the Osteen family whom she had known for many years previous. That’s how I met Pastor Joel’s niece Olivia Osteen. We had a great time the day of this photo shoot and I believe we captured some wonderful images of Olivia in her natural environment.
Since the shoot, Olivia has been featured in a number of projects and was most recently seen working with Disney Channel star Jake Short on a PSA for the Blessings in a Backpack program, which was shot in the green screen studio at Lakewood Church in Houston. Together, they’ve taken to the airwaves to fight hunger in our schools. Watch their PSA below.