GREENFIELD — Under a clear blue sky, with a warm sun beaming down from above, they bowed their heads for a moment of silence.
As they have for the last 15 Septembers, Greenfield firefighters gathered outside their station to pay homage to their brothers and sisters in uniform who lost their lives one fateful morning hundreds of miles away.
Sunday, surrounded by a crowd of community members and friends, they paused to remember and promised once again to never forget – and this time outlined plans to etch that promise in stone.
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Greenfield Fire Territory officials announced plans for a firefighters memorial Sunday during a service commemorating the anniversary of Sept. 11, 2001.
Before a group of about 100 onlookers, Chief James Roberts unveiled architectural renderings of a memorial planned for a special spot in front of the downtown fire station on South Street.
The project is expected to carry a $40,000 price tag and will be funded entirely by donations to the fire department. Firefighters say they plan to seek sponsorships, hold fundraisers and sell engraved tribute stones – similar to those that dot the nearby Veterans Memorial Park – to raise money for the structure, officials said.
Creating a firefighters memorial is a vision Roberts has had since stepping into the chief’s office in 2007, he said.
For nearly a decade, he’s looked out the window of that office upon a shabby patch of grass and cracking sidewalk and wanted to make it something more, something meaningful, he said.
Recently, he and deputy chief Jason Horning moved forward with plans to create a firefighter’s memorial – the first of its kind in Hancock County.
The memorial will sit along South Street, just west of the station’s firetruck bay. It will consist of four black stone monuments positioned among three flag poles, the architectural plans show.
A committee of firefighters will make the final decision about what will be engraved on those monuments, though officials say they know at least two will be used to honor fallen firefighters, locally and miles away.
At least one stone will be used to remember the 343 firefighters who perished in New York City during the terrorist attacks on 9/11, Roberts said. Another will likely display the names of retired Greenfield firefighters who made significant contributions to the department but have since passed away.
Roberts hopes one of the stones sits blank forever.
Though the Greenfield Fire Territory has never lost an on-duty firefighter, one memorial stone will be designated for the names of any who might die while fighting a blaze locally, Roberts said.
It seemed fitting to announce the plans for the local memorial on 9/11, fire officials said.
Each year, the department plans or participates in a remembrance service for those who died that day. Sunday, they held a program outside their fire station, displayed a steel remnant from one of the Twin Towers and played patriot music under a bright blue sky.
Greenfield Mayor Chuck Fewell and Indiana state Sen. Mike Crider each spoke, recalling memories of that morning 15 years ago and offering a word of thanks for those who served that day and still serve now.
Crider, who is a former Department of National Resources officer, said his law enforcement background gave him a different perspective of the events on 9/11. As he watched the horror unfold on television, he looked toward the ground, to the firefighters and police officers, while so many looked up at the smoke-filled sky.
Crider said he watched as the firefighters formed command stations at the base of the towers in New York and without hesitation ran into the buildings.
Such sacrifices should always be remembered, he said.
Local fire department officials say they hope the new memorial will help generations of Greenfield residents remember what happened on 9/11. How quickly the memorial comes together is dependent on the community, Roberts said.
Marilyn Levering, a former member of the Greenfield City Council, was one of the first residents to make a donation to the memorial, purchasing a $100 brick to be engraved with the name of her grandson, who currently works as an Indiana State Police officer.
The memorial will make a great addition to the city’s landscape, Levering said. She hopes the community pulls together quickly to bring the display to fruition.
“I’m just an American who cares,” she said of why she decided to donation. “I think it’s just wonderful.”
The Greenfield Fire Territory is now accepting donations to fund its firefighters memorial. For more information, call the fire department at 317-477-4430.