Both Quebec Premier Pauline Marois and Lac-Mégantic mayor Colette Roy-Laroche cried as they hugged at an emotional ceremony honouring first reponders on Sunday afternoon.
In the early morning hours of July 6, a train carrying crude oil derailed and exploded in the heart of Lac-Mégantic, Que., killing 47 people.
Hundreds of men and women who tended to Lac-Mégantic during the disaster were awarded medals for bravery today at the local high school.
“Quebec is lucky to be able to count on men and women like you,” Marois told the emergency workers in the audience, before calling Roy-Laroche to the stage.
The premier also gave Roy-Laroche the flag that was flying atop the national assembly at the time of the tragedy, as well as a commemorative plaque honouring those who perished.
Marois also underscored the bravery emergency crews exemplified during her speech.
"This afternoon, the Quebec government decided to recognize the people who, in extraordinary and extremely difficult conditions, showed unbelievable composure. Despite the risk, they did not hesitate," she said, adding that many of those who rushed to Lac-Mégantic's aid were volunteers or people who returned early from summer vacations to help.
"Despite fatigue, despite the heat, despite the pain, despite the grief, they persisted," Marois continued.
She said, however, that it was finally time for first-responders to take care of themselves.
"All the people who intervened in this terrible catastrophe, they are in their own way victims of this tragedy," the premier said.
“I’m telling you, and telling those close to you, that it’s now time to take care of yourselves, too. Go find help — it’s not a sign of weakness, it’s a sign of strength. The whole of Quebec and your government will not let you fall," Marois said.