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Firefighters-to-be keep 9/11 memories alive

Marc Real (left) 16 Round Lake Beach retired Gurnee Police Sgt. Fred Witte Wadsworth watch as Color Guard Kaliann Fischer

Marc Real (left), 16, of Round Lake Beach and retired Gurnee Police Sgt. Fred Witte of Wadsworth watch as the Color Guard of Kaliann Fischer, 17, Gurnee, Alex Cluster with American Flag, 17, of Lake Zurich, Morgan Galowitch, 17, of Lake Zurich and Ilona Katsman (right), 18, of Grayslake presents the colors during the 9/11 Ceremony held at the Lake County High Schools Technology Campus in Grayslake. | Thomas Delany Jr.~ Sun-Times Media

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Updated: October 14, 2012 1:32PM

GRAYSLAKE — Most of them were born in the mid 1990s, meaning they were probably in kindergarten on the morning of Sept. 11, 2011.

As students from the Lake County High Schools Technology Campus gathered outside Tuesday morning for a 9/11 remembrance ceremony, fire service instructor Craig Richardson encouraged them to hang on to their memories of that day — however fleeting they might be.

“We think it’s important to keep these memories alive,” said Richardson, “in the same way that our parents and our grandparents have kept alive the memories of the attack on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941. Most of us were not alive then, but we know what happened.

“You students that stand before me were witness to the events of Sept. 11, 2001, and are some of the last students who will be walking through the doors of the Technology Campus that will have this memory. So it now falls upon you to ensure that future generations realize the impact that this event had upon our nation.”

Participants in the 11 a.m. ceremony, held under a U.S. flag snapping at half staff in a strong southerly wind, included students from the campus’ criminal justice, emergency medical services and fire service programs.

The proceedings began with the presentation of a flag inscribed with the names of all the 9/11 victims, and included a reading of select names of firefighters and police officers killed in the World Trade Center towers. It was pointed out that number of names represented only 10 percent of the firefighters and 5 percent of the officers who were lost in the attacks.

The ceremony concluded with “returning to quarters” — the nine-ring tolling of a fire bell that traditionally marked the conclusion of an alarm. Richardson said it is now “the means of sending a fallen firefighter home to their final resting place. They are returning to quarters for the last time. Their tour has been completed.”

Among those joining the Tech Campus students and staff for the event were crew members from Remembrance Rescue Project, a private organization that travels the country aboard Rescue 5, one of two New York Fire Department trucks that survived damage at Ground Zero.

“Feel free to touch the rig,” project volunteer Corey Vaughn told students as they gathered around. “It was there, it was collapsed on. ... The only thing we ask is that the doors stay shut out of respect for those who never came home.”

Corey’s father, Scott Vaughn, said Tuesday marked the first anniversary for what he called “a rolling memorial,” which also was displayed last weekend at the Waukegan Air Show.

“It’s in remembrance, that’s one of our key words,” he said. “If you ask what the project in general is about, it’s about educating society — particularly the younger generation that either wasn’t around or was just too young, like a lot of these guys — to really understand how big of an event that really was.”

Vaughn added that the truck was restored with the help of volunteers that included graphic artist John Jacquette, a Wadsworth native and former fire-service instructor at the Tech Campus. It bears the name of 13 Rescue 5 personnel who were killed on 9/11.

“The rig itself is meant to honor and preserve the memory of those who were lost on the rig,” said Vaughn, “as well as the 343 of the (NYFD) firefighters, as well as every firefighter who’s been lost in the line of duty around the country.”

Richardson said he didn’t intend Tuesday’s for ceremony “to re-open painful memories, (but) instead to celebrate and recognize the service, duty and lives of those we lost” on 9/11.

“Those of us in police and fire (service) knew all too well the risks our brothers and sisters were taking in a valiant effort to save the lives of those imperiled,” he added. “We also remember the pride that we felt as we watched them stand courageous in the face of evil.”

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