Four Janesville Boy Scouts camped out at Traxler Park on Friday night.
Saturday morning, they planted 344 small American flags in the grass at Firehouse Park along the Rock River.
The flags symbolized the firefighters who died while responding to the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
The Scouts weren’t born when the attacks happened, noted Scout leader Rick Elliott, so the activity made remembering 9/11 special for them.
The Scouts joined about 150 others Saturday morning in the park near the Janesville 9/11 memorial.
The memorial is a concrete obelisk with a steel beam from the World Trade Center, which was installed in 2012. The beam is mounted pointing east, towards New York City.
Among Saturday’s attendees were on-duty firefighters who brought their trucks and ambulances to North Main Street so they could respond to calls if needed.
Only 18 of the city’s 97 firefighters were with the department 20 years ago, said Deputy Fire Chief Bill Ruchti.
“I think most of the department is going to try to be out here, if they’re not on a call,” Ruchti said.
Many of the attendees were fire department retirees. Janesville police provided a color guard. A kilted bagpiper reminded all of the solemnity of the occasion.
Scouts have been coming to the park for 10 years to support Janesville Fire Fighters Local 580, who put on an annual 9/11 memorial ceremony, Elliott said.
“All those people were heroes, who went in the buildings and saved lives,” said Scout Alex Snook. “It means a lot because a lot of people died just for being human. They didn’t do nothing wrong. So it’s very important to me to learn about it.”
“9/11 is for all the heroes that went there and saved other people’s lives, and lot of people died during that, which is really sad,” said Scout Dylan Fowler.
The firefighters union posted on its Facebook page a portion of a 2004 speech from then-U.S. Senator John Kerry:
“Remember the hours after September 11th, when we came together as one to answer the attack against our homeland. We drew strength when our firefighters ran up the stairs and risked their lives, so that others might live. When rescuers rushed into smoke and fire at the Pentagon. When the men and women of Flight 93 sacrificed themselves to save our nation's Capitol. When flags were hanging from front porches all across America, and strangers became friends. It was the worst day we have ever seen, but it brought out the best in all of us.”
EDITOR’S NOTE: A full story and more photos of the Janesville 9/11 memorial will be published online Sunday evening and in Monday’s paper.