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Local and national heroes honored at 9-11 banquet

IDAHO FALLS, Idaho (KIFI)- 22 years ago 2,996 people lost their lives in New York. 343 of those lives were firefighters, and 71 were law enforcement personnel. Saturday evening local foundation Hero's Defense hosted a banquet to honor their legacy and the legacy and great work of the first responders in the region.

"We decided that it was time to bring some of that out here, share some of what we've heard and what we've learned, and reignite that promise. And so in doing so, we found this community is just phenomenal. They understand it. And the more we share about 9/11 and the more we share about the character of our first responders, the more the community responds, and it's amazing," said Travis Snowder founder of Hero's Defense.

Snowder says that the memorial banquet that they are hosting is one of the fastest-growing events that honor the legacy of 9/11.

"We were one of the only 9/11 events that's actually growing in support. So this year's event is actually doubling in size and we expect next year to do the exact same thing. And so some of the big organizations in the country like Tunnel to Towers, which is one of the largest 911 funds in the country, support not only 9/11 veterans but also military and first responders. They've actually reached out to us and want to partner with us next year for even a bigger event next year with them participating," Snowder said.

The banquet was graced not only by local first responders but also by two visitors, who were veterans, from the the New York Fire Department who were there that fateful day.

Kevin Calhoun a retired captain from the New York Fire Department shared some stories with the audience of what happened that day in his experience.

He shared how even 22 later the Brotherhood of Firefighters continues to remember the legacy of his friends—many of whom lost their lives. One of the stories he shared was of a senior firefighter who tried to motivate his men as they raced to the Twin Towers.

"The firefighter in my firehouse, firefighter Larry Vella, as they were leaving on the fire truck, he was the senior firefighter in the back. And his words to the firemen were "Guys firemen are going to die today. Let's try not to be one of them. Let's stay together like we always do, work cohesively and we'll come home." Unfortunately, they did stay together and they all died together and we support them for that," Captain Calhoun said.

Since that day retired Captain Calhoun says that the department has rebuilt and become stronger but the scars of that day remain.

He says coming somewhere where the promise to "Never Forget" is not only heartwarming but the best way to honor his friend's legacy.

"I'll say this, the coast to coast, the West Coast, East Coast, I do not remember. And don't fully support it understand it or want to remember it as well as middle America. As they say, the flyover states, the flyover states are the states that mattered. They're the ones that care that they are the Americans that we as firefighters believe America should be in would be great."

Another veteran of the Firefighter from that day Billy Carlson also shared how his father who was a battalion chief in Queens, saved his life when he got to ground zero.

"He's there, and I go, dad, 'what do you need? We got the whole 111 here and guys from the 214 engine where do you need us to start looking?' And he goes to me he goes Bill, and he goes 'Bill nobody is going on that pile.' And I go Dad 'What do you mean nobody is going on that pile?' I go 'You got civilians out there trapped! And you got our brothers you got firefighters that are out there trapped!' and he goes 'You see that building, building 7?' He goes 'That's going to come down. We've lost so many we're not going to lose any more. You are not going on that pile and that's an order," Carlson said.

Carlson went on to describe how while he wanted to defy orders he realized he was needed elsewhere and tried to do what he could to save more people. He also described how after it was all over he realized that his dad had probably saved his life. Because had he been on that pile searching, the other tower and other surrounding buildings would have collapsed trapping them.

Calhoun has some words for everybody, who might want to honor his friend's legacy and support their local first responders when already some did a great act of support.

"More than likely, we had some of the Idaho firefighters and other local firefighters come to New York. They may have come to work or they may have come in their uniform. And when they came in their uniform, they stood in the lines of our brothers who passed when we couldn't be there. So we gave their families through the help of firefighters across the country and across the world. The dignified funeral that, as we call the line of Blue, wanted to do it and remembrance for the sacrifices of these today and the days to come," said Calhoun.

He said this is what we can do. "Just remember that firefighter that's driving down the block. He would do the same thing. The police officer in your neighborhood will do the same thing. Just we were putting in a circumstance that day. We you know, that was that was ours. On any given day, it could happen anywhere. And you should just thank the first responders in your community. Keep them in mind, especially on September 11th. Stop and say hello. Say, thank you. Wave to them. Just remember them," Calhoun said.

The Heroes Banquet was attended by 350 people and they were able to raise over $282k for our local first responders.

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Braydon Wilson

Braydon is a reporter for Local News 8 and Eyewitness News 3.


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