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The story behind the statue

Missouri Mile slideshow: Memorial honors fallen firefighters and connects us to 9/11.

Kingdom City, Mo. Population 130. Complete with two truck fueling centers, it is a common stopping point for travelers to fill their gas tanks or grab a bite to eat. But if that is all they do, they are missing a very moving tribute to those who lost their lives while serving as firefighters.

It is hard to miss the 6-foot-tall kneeling firefighter atop a brick wall. He sits just north of Interstate 70 at the Fire Fighters Memorial, which was dedicated in 2002. Today, it serves as a tribute to those firefighters who died in the line of duty. They represent the thousands of volunteer, rural and city firefighters.

Visitors are often drawn to the base of the statue. Below it is an inscription, “Greater love hath no man than to lay down his life for his friends,” and the words of “A Fire Fighter’s Prayer.” However, this was not the original sculpture.

The kneeling firefighter statue’s history is entwined with the events of Sept. 11, 2001. Originally commissioned by the Firefighters Association of Missouri and cast in Parma, Italy, the first statue landed at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York on Sept. 9, en route to Missouri. Then the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center began halting all air travel, including the flight scheduled for the statue.

With all that transpired during those days, Missouri’s firefighters decided to leave that first statue behind and present it to the Federal Law Enforcement Foundation as a gift to all New Yorkers. Today, the second statue graces the memorial wall.

Inside City Hall in Kingdom City, adjacent to the memorial, is part of the bumper of Engine 28, which was destroyed in the 9/11 attacks. It was presented to Greg Frost, a Mercer, Mo., volunteer firefighter with the Cainsville Fire Protection District. He went to New York to help with the recovery efforts. Cainsville FPD displayed the bumper until 2014. Then it was given to the Fire Fighters Historical Preservation Foundation of Missouri, and now is a part of a small museum.

Outside, surrounding the statue are large black, granite walls. They are inscribed with names and form a Wall of Honor. Some of these are from fallen firefighters and date back to 1838. Visitors can walk through time and perhaps find a name of a loved one or family friend.

Whether you visit or drive by, the Fire Fighters Memorial of Missouri is a sight that makes us pause to remember those who paid the ultimate price for service to humankind.

Here’s a link to the location of the Fire Fighters Memorial of Missouri.

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