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Swikar Patel | The Journal Gazette
Army ROTC Cadets Chris Rozman, left, and Miles North donate boots Tuesday at IPFW. Oasis Radio Group hoped to receive 2,996 pairs, the number of those killed Sept. 11, 2001. The donations were to aid the Fort Wayne Rescue Mission.

Paying respects – and planting flags

Samuel Hoffman | The Journal Gazette
Fort Wayne firefighter Craig Emenhiser helps his daughter Peyton, 2, plant an American flag at the Law Enforcement/Firefighters Memorial on Wells Street on Tuesday.

Some came to place flags in the grassy areas separating the sidewalks and stone monuments. Some came to stroll through the grounds and pay their respects, and others came to donate items for troops overseas.

All came to remember.

For a few hours Tuesday there was a steady stream of people going to and from the Law Enforcement/Firefighters Memorial of Allen County just off Wells Street.

On the 11th anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, city officials wanted to provide an opportunity for people to look back on that day and the way the world changed.

While there was no solemn ceremony, several firefighters and police officers made appearances at the memorial along with Mayor Tom Henry and a pipe and drum corps.

"We wanted something simple," said Stacey Fleming, spokeswoman for the Fort Wayne Fire Department and one of the people who helped organize Tuesday's event.

Everyone was handed a flag to place in the ground, and donations were gladly accepted to be shipped overseas to troops still involved in combat there.

For many at the memorial, the day of the attacks came back in a flash, especially for those who share the same career as many of the victims who were killed running into the buildings.

"All those paramedics and officers and firefighters and hospital workers who gave their lives – that was their job, but they didn't know what was going to happen that day," said Larry Winget, chaplain for the Southwest Allen County Fire District who has been a firefighter for 40 years.

For some, the wars sparked by the attacks aren't such a distant memory.

Craig Emenhiser served in the Marine Corps from 2000 to 2004 and did one tour in Iraq.

Now a Fort Wayne firefighter, he brought his wife and two young children to the memorial to pay their respects to those who rushed into the World Trade Center towers and Pentagon to save whomever they could.

"You just think about what happened to all those guys," Emenhiser said. "They did what most people won't even consider."

And while there were no long speeches, no long moments of silence and people walked about and chatted and laughed, none really forgot why they had come to the memorial in the first place.

"We made a pledge, no matter where you were 11 years ago, we'd never forget," Fleming said.