Conn. Firefighters Escort Mobile 9/11 Exhibit to Convention
Sept. 16—NORWICH—A parade of fire trucks with their sirens wailing rolled down the hill on Merchants Avenue leading to the Taftville fire station Friday afternoon, escorting a special visitor for this weekend's huge 134th annual Connecticut State Firefighters Association Convention.
Packed away inside a 53-foot tractor-trailer belonging to the Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Foundation was the 9/11 Never Forget Mobile Exhibit, a high-tech, 1,000-square-foot museum about the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. The trailer unfolds to showcase artifacts from the 9/11 Ground Zero site in New York, where firefighters were among the first responders at the World Trade Center towers after the attacks.
The Siller Family started the Stephen Siller Tunnel to Towers Foundation to honor the memory of Stephen Siller, a New York City firefighter who died on Sept. 11 after strapping on his gear and running through the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel to the Twin Towers.
New York firefighters will be stationed throughout the exhibit and will guide visitors through it.
By Friday evening it was scheduled to be unpacked and assembled at Wequonnoc School, where it will be open to the public, free of charge, all weekend. It's only the second time the trailer has visited Connecticut, and its first stop in Eastern Connecticut, organizers said.
Each truck in the convoy, and police and motorcycle escorts, passed under a large American flag that hung from the top of an extended ladder a Lisbon truck had raised over Providence Street.
On the sidewalks, local residents and firefighters from around the city waved, cheered, took cell phone photos and waved small flags.
"It was absolutely awesome, very emotional too," said Griswold resident Monique Labonte, who grew up in Taftville. Her father was a lifetime department member and her mother was a founding member of the auxiliary, she said.
Labonte still has ties to the Taftville department, where she's a member of the auxiliary.
"We're helping them out with anything we can do this weekend," she said.
Nearby, Jayden Jencks, 4, waved a flag with his great-grandmother, Rosemarie Kalin, as the trucks approached.
"It's absolutely exciting to see," Kalin said. "This is a once-in-a-lifetime thing."
The firefighters convention, the largest of its kind in the state, will host about 3,000 attendees. It also coincides with the 100th anniversary celebration of the Taftville Fire Department.
The weekend's festivities culminate in a parade of fire trucks and other firefighting vehicles from throughout the state, with 400 vehicles expected. It begins at noon Sunday, will wind its way through the streets of Taftville and conclude at the fire station.
Visitors can check out the 9/11 mobile exhibit from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. today and 9 a.m. to noon Sunday, and again for a few hours after the parade.