For Whom The Bell Tolls
Honoring First Responders in Leadville Today
When a new fire engine is put into service there are a host of traditions that are performed before the vehicle enters the over-sized bay. Some of the ceremonies date back to the earliest days of emergency service. The christening of a new fire engine involves an enthusiastic ringing of bells and whistles, in addition to a rite called a wetdown.
Once the new engine arrives at the fire station, half of the water from the old engine is filled into the new one in a symbolic mingling of past and present. That same water is then used to spray down the new vehicle for the wetdown process, representing a regeneration of purpose, particularly if the engine is “slightly used,” as is the case for many cash-strapped teams like Leadville/Lake County Fire Rescue. The ceremony allows for a transfer of knowledge along with an adaptation of new procedures, a passing-of-the-baton for one of the most life-saving components surrounding public safety for a remote community, especially when it comes to fighting fires.
Therefore four years ago when the $700,000 Pierce Fire Engine 1 was acquired by LLCFR from Wisconsin, its arrival on historic Harrison Avenue became an event. The firehouse lawn was packed with residents, local dignitaries, and a sea of those signature bright-red fire engine hats that have been distributed to Leadville school children throughout the ages. The fire crew was at the ready, decked out in their finest blues for the occasion. It was a day of celebration in America’s highest city.
If it sounds a bit like the scene from a Norman Rockwell painting, it’s because it was. The excitement was palpable as students craned their necks to get a glimpse of the engine. Everyone anxiously awaited the big moment as they could hear the shiny new lifesaver miles before it met its siren call, all to the thunderous applause of friends and neighbors, nearly drowning out the tolling of bells echoing down historic Harrison Avenue.
There was a genuine appreciation for the fire engine. It represented the heart of civic pride by mingling the old with the new in order to ensure public safety for all. It’s part of what is celebrated in small, rural communities. Because quite frankly, the next time you see that big red truck or that neighbor responding to call, there likely won’t be a cause for celebration. It’s something folks in Leadville Today think about every time they hear that engine’s siren, wondering for whom the bell tolls?
And so it goes on Patriot’s Day – September 11 – in America’s highest city as plans are underway to honor first responders and commemorate the lives lost in the 9/11 attacks of 2001. To that end, LT brings you some information about an upcoming rally and a reminder about one of the many ways that fallen heroes are remembered in Leadville Today.
Perhaps the commemoration of 9/11 will bring its own wetdown, offering a mingling of new and old ideas, a combining of past and present policies, something that a place like Leadville can truly understand. #NeverForgotten #UnitedWeStand
Friday Rally For First Responders
The Patriot Day holiday is observed in the United States on September 11 to commemorate the lives of those who died in the 2001 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center in New York City and the Pentagon in Virginia and those who perished when the hijacked United Airlines Flight 93 crashed in Pennsylvania.
For many, it’s also a time to show support of all first responders. And so it goes for America’s Highest City as preparations are in place for a “Rally for First Responders,” scheduled for September 11 from 5 -6:30 p.m. on the sidewalk in front of the Lake County Courthouse located at 6th and Harrison Avenue in downtown Leadville, Colorado.
“We intend for this to be a feel-good, uniting moment bringing the community together at a time when chaos and division reign in many parts of our nation,” stated rally organizer Patti Nagel who is coordinating the event with the help from another Leadville local, Betty Benson.
The Rally intends to showcase Leadville and Lake County’s appreciation for all First Responders, from the fire department to law enforcement officers to the search and rescue crews to the ambulance teams as well as all of the EMTs, nurses, and doctors who take care of those in Leadville Today.
“Let our First Responders know that they are ALL supported and loved for the very difficult work they do in normal times,” explained Nagel. “Now that all of our lives are compounded by the virus and contentious issues, their work has become infinitely more difficult.”
All citizens with peaceful intent are welcome. In addition, all attendees must adhere to Lake County Public Health guidelines by wearing a mask and social distancing. If you feel the least bit sick, please stay home and write them a letter instead! Also, please limit yourselves to the Courthouse sidewalks and not the lawn.
Organizers message to residents: “Come on Leadville! Let’s show other towns how it’s done! We CAN come together in support of all that our First Responder individuals do for us!! See you on 9-11!”
Daily Drive: Fallen Heroes Highway
For many, the Highway 91 commuter over to Copper Mountain is simply a part of their daily grind on their way to work. However, this stretch of Colorado state highway is also known as Fallen Heroes Highway, honoring those who gave their lives in service to others, including first responders.
Readers may recall the story behind the second name engraved on the plaques that sit at the base of each sign on opposite ends of the thoroughfare, this one honoring a Summit County emergency responder. In July 2015, Pilot Patrick Mahany died not long after his Flight for Life helicopter crashed into the parking lot of St. Anthony Summit Medical Center in Frisco shortly after take-off. Mahany was a Vietnam veteran who first started flying helicopters shortly after he joined the military in 1970.
He was incredibly respected and still honored to this day by his colleagues and many patients whose lives he touched and saved. Read more about Patrick’s story HERE.
The whole idea behind Fallen Heroes Highway started ten years ago in 2010 with the passage of SENATE JOINT RESOLUTION 10-040 an effort supported by then State Representative Christine Scanlan and State Senator Mark Scheffel who helped secure the road’s dedication between Lake and Summit Counties as Fallen Heroes Highway. The effort was driven by Marine Nicklas Palmer’s parents, Rachele and Brad Palmer of Leadville (more recently Montana).
For those readers who may not know, an LCHS graduate Nick Palmer joined the Marines in 2005. He was killed in action on December 16, 2006 while on patrol in Fallujah, Iraq. He was just 19 years old.
The Fallen Heroes Highway signs and plaque can be viewed on the Lake County end near the junction of Highway 24 and on the Summit County side just south of the Copper Mountain parking lots. If you know of someone who should be honored on the Fallen Heroes Highway plaque please contact Brad Palmer at email@example.com.