The topic of discussion for one Lincoln County fire department the day after Christmas focused on the heroic sacrifice made by one group of first responders on September 11, 2001.
A fire truck that carried firefighters to their death while responding to the World Trade Center attacks more than a decade ago was displayed Thursday at Lincolnton Fire Department.
The truck is one of three fire engines that have been restored through the Remembrance Rescue Project, a nonprofit organization established in July 2011.
Firefighters established the project as a way to preserve the memory of their fallen brothers who were assigned to each of the trucks that deadly day.
The trucks belonged to a local fire agency in New York.
A total of 20 firefighters from the department — 11 from one engine and 9 from another — lost their lives.
The project’s website, remembrance.co.us, said the organization’s goal is to “restore, preserve and share” the 9/11 rescue trucks “as educational tools, historical artifacts and memorials,” particularly for students too young to understand the attacks or who weren’t alive when the events occurred.
Twelve-year-old Abi Harkey is one of those children. She was just 4 months old when the attacks took place.
Harkey and her mother, an employee with Lincoln County’s rescue squad, visited the fire engine on Thursday morning.
“It’s pretty cool,” Harkey said, “that there’s something that represents it (9/11) and was in it.”
Each truck will be displayed in a certain section of the country throughout the year.
According to Lt. Joel Crotts, with Advance Fire Department in Advance, N.C., his agency is sponsoring the engine’s tour this month, including its stop in Lincoln County.
The truck will remain on display up and down the East Coast, Crotts said, while a second one will stay in the Midwest and a third one on the country’s western end.
It’s through various fire departments’ volunteer efforts that the project continues to exist.
In addition, funding for the Remembrance Rescue Project stems solely from the organization’s T-shirt sales and other 9/11 memorabilia.
Since seizing the opportunity to serve as host, Crotts and fellow firefighters have taken the fire engine to every school in Davie County and other fire departments throughout the state. In addition to a truck tour, fire officials present students with a 9/11 slideshow including shocking statistics and haunting pictures.
Many of the children, particularly elementary and middle school students, fail to comprehend the magnitude of the event’s terror until standing face-to-face with the truck, Crotts noted.
“They kind of look at you like they’re not really sure what you’re talking about,” he said. “Then they come outside, and it clicks.”
While all of the trucks have been repainted and repaired, each maintains a small portion of authentic damage to remind citizens of the deadliest attack on American soil.
For the truck displayed at Lincolnton Fire Department, the back of the vehicle contains two damaged doors.
Several firefighters from surrounding counties, including Iredell’s Mt. Mourne Fire Department, took time Thursday to visit the site, many remaining silent as they scanned pictures of the frightful September scene and read the story of one of the agency’s surviving firefighters.
Crotts explained how the man, usually a part of one of the trucks’ crew, had been re-assigned the day of the attacks.
While the firefighter responded to the towers’ wreckage, he managed to survive, unlike a large number of his fire family.
“He was one of the fortunate ones to get out,” Crotts said.
In the surviving firefighter’s written account of the incident, he details his every move that day, unsure if he will ever recover from losing close friends.
“I’m writing this because maybe it will help me sleep,” he said, “and so I won’t have to go over it so many times, but I will probably relive this (event) every day of my life.”
For more information on the Remembrance Rescue Project, visit remembrance.co.us.