KUSA - 9NEWS wrapped up ‘Heroes’ Week’ with a group that’s close to 9NEWS anchor Corey Rose’s heart: firefighters.
The International Fallen Firefighters Memorial is located in Colorado Springs and 5,000 to 7,000 people from all over the US and Canada going there for the annual memorial ceremony Saturday.
Recently, the memorial went through a huge multimillion dollar renovation that truly honors our everyday heroes.
Words like ‘Courage’, ‘Family’, ‘Sacrifice’ line the circle surrounding the memorial. Just a few of the words that describe a hero.
There are 123 names are being added to the memorial this year, joining the 7,400 names already listed on the stones.
All fallen firefighters listed are dating back to 1918.
The center statue is a bronze firefighter coming down a ladder after rescuing a baby. It has never been moved since the first walls went up in 1988.
Another statue at the front entrance is a firefighter reflecting on the call he just went on.
And the guards on each end of the stones watching over our heroes at all times, the guardians of the fallen.
One section of the wall is a heavy reminder of the sacrifice made by these heroes.
There are 343 names, every firefighter who died 15 years ago on 9/11.
Mike Smaldino is a Colorado Springs Firefighter and one of the many that make the memorial what it is.
The names on the walls to him are so much more. Smaldino was visiting family in New York the week before 9/11. His uncle’s house was right above the firehouse.
On that trip, he met a young firefighter named Christopher Santora. Santora had just started his dream job, to be a firefighter for the New York City Fire Department .
"Then the next week, September 11, happened and as they started identifying everyone, his name popped up,” said Smaldino.
Santora wasn’t even on duty at the time. He just got off shift and when he got the call, he raced back to the firehouse and toward the burning World Trade Center.
He died at 23 years old, after only two months on the job.
“Over the years, you [get to] know people, you meet people and then you see their names come up and that's where you asked, “What does it mean to me?” You start recognizing these names and the families with the history behind it, that that’s what’s powerful,” said Smaldino.
Every name has a story and you may have heard Corey Rose’s before. This week her father’s name, Gary M. Stameisen was added to the wall.
He was a Los Angeles City Firefighter for 32 years, gone much too soon at the age of 57 from an aggressive cancer that was ruled a "line of duty death."
The memorial has seen many tears and unfortunately, will see many more, as flags there are often at half-staff.
Just another reminder of the sacrifice and courage made by heroes that walk among us every day.
The Fallen Firefighter Memorial ceremony is Saturday at 11 a.m. in Colorado Springs.
It's free and open to the public.
For more information about the memorial: https://www.iaff.org/hs/ffm/about/history.aspx
For more information about the Colorado Professional Firefighters Foundation: http://cpfffoundation.com/
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