Reporting Liz Collin
ST. PAUL, Minn. (WCCO) — Flags were flown at half-mast on Sunday to honor 207 Minnesota firefighters who paid the ultimate sacrifice in the name of duty and tradition.
Steve Becker’s family is among those who cannot forget. His father, Robert, died in 1979 coming back from a call. His truck was hit by a semi. Becker was just 13 years old.
“It was tough. I had three older sisters and me, the only boy, so we were pretty tight,” Becker recalled.
The Minnesota Fallen Firefighter Memorial, which now stands in the foreground of the State Capitol, is not only for the fallen firefighters – but for their families.
For the last 25 years, the memorial stood at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport. Captain George Esbensen, President of the Fire Service Foundation, says that it was time to move the memorial to a new location.
“All along it had been a dream or more hallowed ground, a more reverent place to pay respect to these 207 that have died in the line of duty,” Captain Esbensen said.
At the center of the 6,000 square foot memorial is a sculpture of firefighter rescuing a child. It’s surrounded by a grid of medal columns, each etched with the name of a fallen Minnesota firefighter.
“The memorial is designed to be rustic and hands on,” Chief Esbensen said.
The public is encouraged to bring paper and a pencil to make a namesake rubbing. There is also dedication wall, inscribed with the names of the 791 fire departments across the state.
A bench adjacent to the memorial serves as a place to sit and reflect.
“It kind of makes you realize what the men and women do every day just to protect perfect strangers,” Becker said.
The Minnesota Fire Service Foundation is the driving force behind the memorial. It successfully raised $600,000 to fund the memorial, but is still shy of reaching its fundraising goal.
You can help make a financial contribution by visiting the Minnesota Fire Service Foundation website.
You can also send a check made out to the following:
Minnesota Fire Service Foundation
c/o Flagship Bank
7525 Office Ridge Circle
Eden Prairie, MN 55344-3644