Local firefighters, law enforcement honor 9/11 first responders with memorial walk

GRANTS PASS, Ore. — Grants Pass firefighters honored fallen 9-11 first responders by doing a Memorial Walk today.

Normally, local firefighters gather at the Rogue Valley Manor to honor 9/11 first responders who paid the ultimate price 20 years ago.

Due to COVID-19, this year’s event was canceled.

Instead, Rural Metro Fire Department, Grants Pass Fire-Rescue, Josephine County Sheriff’s Office, Grants Pass Police, and even some dispatchers decided to do a Memorial Walk at Allen Dale Elementary School.

“Having the opportunity to be here together as a group to memorialize them and think about what may have been on their mind that day… determining their game plan to evacuate people out of those two buildings is somewhat unfathomable,” said Lieutenant Mitchell Kuntz. Kuntz works with Rural Metro and has been in the fire service for 12 years.

He still remembers watching the tragedy unfold with his father, who is also a firefighter. “Watching the events of 9/11 occur with him on the news, was something that I still carry with me until this day.”

Rural Metro Division Chief, Austin Prince, says the hour-long walk is meant to recognize the 73-minutes between the first plane that hit the World Trade Center and the eventual collapse of the first building.

“We have certain types of fire activities that we never want to do, we’re kind of lucky we don’t have to do some of those and a lot that come with the big city obligations — which includes high-rise fires,” he said.

Prince says he remembers going to work at the fire station when the first plane struck the World Trade Center in 2001.

He says the terrorist attack gave a lot of firefighters perspective on what they would have done if they’d been in a similar situation.

“Any firefighter out here, in the United States, or even the world, would have never second-guessed doing what those guys did.”

Prince says if the pandemic sticks around, he and his crew will continue to honor 9-11 first responders at the track each year.

NBC5 News reporter Mariah Mills is a Medford native. She graduated from the University of Oregon with a Bachelor's Degree in journalism. She also minored in sociology. In school, she covered Oregon athletics for the student-run television station, Duck TV. When she's not reporting, she’s reading, hiking and rooting for her favorite teams, the Seattle Seahawks and the Oregon Ducks.
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