By Anne Eickstadt

ANNE EICKSTADT PHOTO Belvidere Republican
BFD firefighters salute as the Ground Zero flag is raised.

On the morning of 9-11 this year, the Belvidere Fire Dept. lowered the flag they normally fly over Station 1 and replaced it with a special flag.

“This flag flew at Ground Zero during the recovery effort,” Chief Al Hyser said. “We keep the flag here at Station 1 in a special case. We bring it out every 9-11 to commemorate that day. The mayor, the city clerk, and the city attorney are all invited down for breakfast.

“Some of the firefighters here were working that day when we heard the news,” he said.

Lt. Dave Burdick said, “I had been on the job for nine months. That was a time when we did our own pump testing on the trucks so we were down by the river. Firefighter Matt Loudenbeck went back to get another truck. It seemed that it took a long time for him to come back so we went to find out why. We found everyone at Station #2 watching the event.”

“I had just gotten off shift,” said Firefighter Chuck Rotolo. “That was when I started getting phone calls from family and friends.”

“It really puts things in perspective, watching the New York Fire Dept. guys running to help,” Firefighter Loudenbeck said. “I had just started 12 days before and I was still doing my first two work weeks, doing eight hours a day for my 40 hours. I remember calling my wife from the station to make sure she knew. It really sets the tone for this job.”

“I was a firefighter over at Station #2 at the time,” Chief Hyser said. “Retired firefighter Red Elliott was walking by Station #2 like he did every day. He came in and asked Captain Toft and me, ‘Did you see what’s going on in New York?’ We turned the TV on and started watching it unfold. We were supposed to take the truck for pump testing but we couldn’t get away from the events taking place.

“I will never forget the outpouring of love from people dropping by. We’re nearly 900 miles away from the Twin Towers and people from our community kept stopping by to express their support. One mom stopped her car and her little boy hopped out, ran up to me and hugged me around my knees. He couldn’t have come up to mid-thigh on me. But he ran back to mom, so happy that he had gotten to hug a firefighter.

“It’s a special day for firefighters and the country in general.”

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