When a courageous band of
crusaders known as the Knights of St. John, fought the Saracens
for possession of the holy land, they encountered a new weapon unknown
to European warriors. It was a simple, but a horrible device of war, it
wrought excruciating pain and agonizing death upon the brave fighters
for the cross. The Saracen's weapon was, fire.
As the crusaders advanced on
the walls of the city, they were struck by glass bombs containing
naphtha. When they became saturated with the highly flammable liquid,
the Saracens hurled a flaming torch into their midst. Hundreds of the
knights were burned alive; others risked their lives to save their
brothers-in-arms from dying painful, fiery deaths.
Thus, these men became our
first firemen and the first of a long list of courageous firefighters.
Their heroic efforts were recognized by fellow crusaders who awarded
each here a badge of honor - a cross similar to the one firemen wear
today. Since the Knights of St. John lived for close to four centuries
on a little island in the Mediterranean Sea named Malta, the cross came
to be known as the Maltese Cross.
The Maltese Cross is your
symbol of protection. It means that the fireman who wears this cross is
willing to lay down his life for you just as the crusaders sacrificed
their lives for their fellow man so many years ago. The Maltese Cross is
a fireman's badge of honor, signifying that he works in courage - a
ladder rung away from death