VALDOSTA -- Valdostans proved they were Americans at their best, when they showed support, spiritually and financially for the Valdosta Fire Department on Saturday.

Radio station Hot 102.7 and Dodge Valdosta combined their efforts Saturday to gather donations for the victims of the terrorist attacks in New York, said John Wisenbaker, battalion chief with the Valdosta Fire Department. Valdosta fire fighters were in the middle of N. Ashley St. in front of Dodge Valdosta with firemen boots asking for donations. Very few vehicles passed them by. As soon as the boots were filled they returned with an empty boots which quickly filled again.

To emphasize the event, the VFD had a display of fire fighting equipment; the same type of equipment used by the fire fighters in New York. This included individual equipment and vehicles used by the VFD.

Wisenbaker said the VFD is on call to help the fire fighters now involved in rescue operations at the disaster site in New York. "We know that they'll need our help at a later date," he said. "We're more than willing to support when we're called upon."

Wisenbaker is amazed by the work of the fire fighters in New York located at the ground zero area. "I don't know how they do it," he said shaking his head.

Richard Nod, finance manager with Dodge Valdosta said, that under the circumstance and after what happened, Dodge Valdosta wanted to bring recognition to the fire fighters and rescue personnel. "Whatever we can do to participate," he said. "We take them (fire fighters and rescue workers) for granted, until an unfortunate circumstance like what happened in New York -- you realize how important they are."

Lt. Ken Gallagher, VFD, knew two of the New York fire fighters killed during the attack, and knows at least five others that are missing. More than 300 fire fighters died, but they were responsible for saving about 26,000 people, Gallagher said. Gallagher emphasized that the amount of fire fighters killed and missing in New York is equivalent to all the fire fighters combined in the Lowndes County and Valdosta Fire Department. Many of these heroes died when the towers collapsed. "They were gone in an instant," he said, snapping his fingers. "How do you prepare for that? We're not in this business to trade life for life. Sometimes in this business, it doesn't go your way."

Chris Chaos, disc jockey with Hot 102.7, said the response was very warm to the fund raising event. "At first Americans felt horror, distress, anger, frustration and then unity," Chaos said.

That unity was present within the Valdosta community Saturday.

"People in Arby's are coming out from lunch donating to the fire fighters in the street," Chaos said. "We're planning on doing this every week. We'll return here next week and different locations every week. We'll do it as long as it goes."



Rip Prine, please call 244-3400, ext. 237.



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