Milwaukee firefighters remember 9/11

Keller Russell

Milwaukee firefighters remember 9/11

CREATED Sep. 10, 2011

MILWAUKEE -  As he weaves his way through rows of firemen's empty turnout gear, the names of New York fallen firefighters that rests on the helmets,  strike a nerve with Aaron Ritchie.

"It really did hit home. You know,  343 has always been a number within the fire service and we always have a saying that goes with that - "Never forget."

The Oak Creek firefighter and 12 year military veteran hasn't forgotten the sacrifice his brothers and sisters made on September 11, 2001 as the World Trade Center crumbled in the hands of terrorists.

"Many good men lost their lives and it's a travesty," said Ritche.

He was one of many who came out to pay tribute to those lives lost in a memorial by the Milwaukee Fire Department.

343 sets of turnout gear -- boots, helmets and fire jackets -- rested in perfectly aligned rows.

The honor guard stood post, switching off every 15 minutes during the 343 minutes of the memorial, each minute to honor a life lost.

"It's amazing the effect it's having on me even now," said Battalion Chief Terry Lintonen as he looked at the memorial.

Ten years after 9-11, Milwaukee firefighters want to make sure the community hasn't forgotten the loss.

The visual memorial was the idea of Lt. Tom McMenamin.

"Unless you visualize it, you really can't understand it so that's where this idea came,"

It's inspired by an annual even honoring New York firemen Stephen Siller, who despite being off-duty, wen in on his own to help on 9-11. Each year a run is held in his honor 343 firemen line the area where Siller was last seen alive.

Firefighters from each Firehouse donated pieces of their uniforms for the memorial. Those who personally knew a firefighter killed that day, bore the name of that person.

"It's up to us, not only as firemen but as a community, to never forget this event  and this is just our small way ( the Milwaukee Fire Department) to help the community to never forget because I tell you the fire service will never forget," said McMenamin.