Community Buys Fire Truck For FDNY

A fund raiser in a small Ohio community is giving residents an opportunity to set one thing right amid the destruction in New York City, and to reach out to FDNY with an amazing gift from such a small population.

Readers of the Akron Beacon Journal, about 195,000 people, have pulled together $1,355,601.57 for the paper's Fire Truck Fund.

The paper met its original goal of $350,000 to buy one FDNY pumper within one week, and it was then clear that the total would far exceed anyone's expectations. The fund raiser officially lasted for two weeks, and late donations were accepted through October 11.

In addition to the fire truck, the fund will purchase a police car, a fire rescue vehicle, uniforms for those who will staff the vehicles, and other on board equipment, said David Hertz, metro editor of the Akron Beacon Journal. Any money left over will go toward a victim's relief fund.

But the most touching aspect of the runaway fund raiser lies beneath the numbers, in the way people from every corner of the community came together, from small kids to big businesses, to donate anything they could for the fire truck, from a few cents to a few thousand dollars.

"Some people are saying they wish they could give more, some that they are grateful for something tangible they can do," Hertz said.

As the paper's columnist David Giffels wrote, "This is the World Trade Center equivalent of giving a casserole."

The idea to raise money specifically for rescue vehicles emerged at a meeting just two days after the terrorist attacks. The Journal's executives, unable to concentrate on their regular business, discussed how the community could help and immediately settled on the fire truck.

"So many firefighters died in the World Trade Center and so many fire trucks were destroyed that we just saw a need for it," Hertz said.

A front page column by publisher James Crutchfield, was printed the Sunday after the attacks, introducing the fund, and from there it took on a life of its own.

"It's amazing the amount of money that rolled in," Hertz said.

Other partners leading the fund raiser include the city of Akron, FirstMerit Bank and other members of the business community.

Hertz said they have gotten responses of extreme gratitude from FDNY, and have been told that the new truck will be stationed near the site of the fallen World Trade Center.

Michael Regan, newly promoted first deputy fire commissioner of New York, expressed his thanks to the people of the Akron area through Giffels' column.

Regan said gifts and messages of good will have poured in from around the world, but this one touched him especially strongly.

"For the people of one town to act so immediately and through the goodness of their hearts, it's a message not only to New York, but around the world," he said. "It's unbelievable. It's something the children of these firefighters will never forget. On behalf of 11,500 firefighters and officers, I can only say thank you."