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Honoring first responders

Honoring first responders

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It was 19 years ago today that the Unites States of America came under attack. Countless firefighters and emergency responders ran into the twin towers in New York City and into the Pentagon in Washington D.C. to save lives.

Of the 2,977 people who died Sept. 11, 2001 due to the terrorist attach 412 were first responders in New York and many of the 125 people working in the Pentagon on 9/11 worked for the U.S. Army or the U.S. Navy.

A little more than 10 years ago in July 2010, two of Rocky Mount’s own first responders were killed in a traffic crash — Rocky Mount Fire Chief Posey Dillon and firefighter Danny Altice. Dillon and Altice were killed on their way to a house fire in Union Hall when their fire engine collided with another vehicle at the intersection of Old Franklin Turnpike and School Board Road.

The fire engine’s flashing lights and siren were on, state police said, but the other vehicle had the green traffic light.

Dillon was a 33-year veteran of the Rocky Mount Volunteer Fire Department. He served as captain and assistant chief before being promoted to fire chief in 1990.

Dillon was known for his dedication to the department and community.

Dillon also served on Rocky Mount Town Council from 1980 to 2000, and was reappointed in 2006. He served as vice mayor from 1992 to 2000, and had been serving as vice mayor since 2008.

Altice joined the RMVFD in 1963 when he was just 20 years old. During his 47 years with the department, Altice served as fire chief from 1977 to 1984.

The firefighters will be honored – along with other fallen first responders — again this Saturday, Sept. 12 at 11 a.m. as the town dedicates the First Responders Memorial beside Rocky Mount Fire Station.

The three-sided engraved granite obelisk features portraits of fallen first responders, first responder emblems and artwork by Freda Nichols showing three branches of first responders standing shoulder-to-shoulder. The memorial is surrounded by a brick walkway honoring local first responders.

The Rocky Mount-Franklin County First Responders Commission has worked for the past 10 years to raise funds and install the memorial. The memorial grounds will honor the thousands of volunteer and paid firefighters, EMS and law enforcement officers who have served in the communities of Franklin County, Rocky Mount, Boones Mill and Ferrum.

“This is a point of local pride,” said commission vice-chair Charlie Robertson. “With its location at the Rocky Mount Public Safety Building on North Main Street, this memorial stands as a prominent reminder that our safety and security depend on dedicated professionals and volunteers whose first duty is to protect and serve their communities.”

Indeed, the timing is right for the dedication as we pause to remember the hundreds who died on 9/11 and the hundreds who have died since from 9/11 related illnesses after working ground zero and being exposed to dust and chemicals. We also honor those who are working now in the face of a pandemic and risking their lives every day to save others. Thank you for your service.

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