The Houston Texans moved their OTA schedule around on Wednesday, and they did it for all the right reasons. Head coach Gary Kubiak switched the team's start of practice from 11:30 a.m. to 8:00 a.m. so that everyone could attend the memorial service held for four Houston firefighters -- Captain Matthew Renaud, Engineer-Operator Robert Bebee and firefighters Robert Garner and Anne Sullivan -- who lost their lives in a May 31 motel fire in southwest Houston. The memorial service, held at Reliant Stadium, was attended by all Texans players, coaches, and football personnel.
“Our community means so much to us as an organization; that goes without saying,” Kubiak told the team's official website. “These players, they come from all over the country and they become a Houstonian. We put a team together and get very close to our city, and it's something that we talked about as a team with the players the other day. We get so much support from them, and it’s time for us to show our support for these families and the people that serve our city on a daily basis.”
The Texans team stayed for the whole three-hour ceremony, which included remarks from Texas governor Rick Perry, Houston mayor Annise Parker, and Houston fire chief Terry Garrison. The American flag and the IAFF Medal of Honor were presented to the families of the four who lost their lives, and a procession of fire engines moved slowly up Kirby Drive.
13 other firefighters were hospitalized when a restaurant connected to the Southwest inn caught fire, and Renaud, Bebee, Garner, and Sullivan were among the first responders. They died when the roof of the restaurant collapsed.
“It’s something that as players, we talked with the coaches and just tried to work it out when we found out it was going to take place in our building," Texans quarterback Matt Schaub said. "It’s important for us, being members of this community, to be a part of that community, and when something like this happens, we all rally around each other as citizens. I think it says a lot about what’s important to us as a football team and an organization.”
Many of the wounded firefighters attended the memorial, and hundreds of their colleagues walked more than a mile in a dawn procession.
“We’ve had a few things happen this offseason with coaches’ families and a few things going on,” Kubiak concluded. “It kind of makes you stop, and we’ve got a lot of other things other than football going on in our lives that we’ve got to handle, too. We want to help these families handle this situation. Obviously, you know something’s going on all morning and to see the fire trucks lined up down Kirby as we walked over. I think it keeps things in perspective.”
The Texans donated $25,000 to the 100 Club Survivors Fund , which helps families of fallen firefighters in need. The Fund has already disbursed $20,000 to the four families for immediate expenses.