Remembering the fallen

June 18, 2013

HOUSTON — Daniel Cardinal DiNardo led the opening and closing prayers at a memorial service at Reliant Stadium on June 5 honoring four firefighters who died when a structure at the Southwest Inn on the 6800 block of Southwest Freeway collapsed in a fire that grew to five alarms on May 31.

Killed in the fire were Captain Matthew Renaud, 35, engineer operator Robert Bebee, 41, firefighter Robert Garner, 29, and Anne Sullivan, 24, a probationary firefighter. 

“I join the citizens of Houston in expressing my deep sadness regarding the deaths of the members of the Houston Fire Department today,” Cardinal DiNardo said in a statement released on the day of the tragedy. “Our prayers go out to their families and to the community of firefighters. Their everyday bravery and courage has now shown itself to the ultimate sacrifice of their very lives. We honor them. May these brave firefighters be received into the loving arms of the Lord.”

Sullivan, who had graduated in April from the Houston Fire Department Academy, was a parishioner at St. Laurence Catholic Church in Sugar Land. Bebee was a parishioner at St. Luke the Evangelist Catholic Church in Houston.

Father James Burkart, pastor at St. Luke the Evangelist, said, “I hope that the family(ies) and the community will be able to see and recognize this gift of service that the Lord has placed in these fallen firefighters and all of those who place themselves in danger to protect the community,” he said. “And I hope that all Christians will see this as an opportunity to come closer to God — not fall away from His divine love. Unfortunately, when tragedy happens, many allow their grief to push them away from God’s love and from the Christian community. In fact, the exact opposite needs to happen, we must come closer to God and to God’s community and we must call ourselves to service, using the example of these men and women who gave the ultimate sacrifice.”

Father Drew Wood, pastor at St. Laurence, said Sullivan’s funeral on June 6 at St. Laurence was “majestic and deeply emotional.”

“Having about 600 firefighters, 25 bagpipes, honor guard, moving tributes, conjoined with the beautiful funeral Mass with the Catholic Church, was an experience no one will ever forget,” he said. “We can’t fix what happened that Friday afternoon. But we are living the mystery, and our dear, noble Sullivan family is living the mystery as gracefully as they can. Rest in peace, Anne.”