911 obviously played a huge part in the elevation of "first responders" to living saint status. But before that, the hero worship actually grew out of how municipalities made deals with unions to avoid giving out pay raises. Municipalities that did not have money for pay raises would make deals with the unions to give fire fighters and police free funerals if they were killed on the job. This was back in the day when gang mayhem would lead to clashes with police and fires would rage out of control killing dozens of police and fireman. So, getting a free funeral was a significant benefit because there was a pretty good chance you would get killed on the job. Then, with each subsequent labor negotiation, the funeral benefit would get pumped up. Municipalities added parades and huge masses at the biggest Catholic church in town. The tail wagged the dog and now we have giant processions where law enforcement and fire fighters come in from out of state whenever someone dies on the job. While I can certainly appreciate the bravery and selflessness of first responders, you are actually far more likely to die or get injured trawling for shrimp, cutting down trees or putting a new roof on a house. The pay and benefits for many of the more dangerous jobs are a pittance compared to what first responders get. Yet, when someone dies falling off a roof, it may not even make the evening news.