PAXTON — Following the terrorist attacks on America on Sept. 11, 2001, there was a moment that stuck out in the mind of Ed Enright — a moment that proved to him and his Chicago Fire Department colleagues that the camaraderie, trust and love they had for each other and firefighters nationwide was as strong as ever.
After attending a mass at a Catholic church near the Engine 18 headquarters to pay their respects to those who perished in the attacks earlier in the week, Enright and some 40 other firefighters from his company got into formation in preparation for taps to be played.
“Sadie — the firehouse dog, a Rottweiler — was sitting in front of the formation, and as taps was being played she started howling like a wolf — just howling,” recalled Enright.
Enright and his fellow firefighters thought it meant something.
“We thought, that karma, that electricity, that teamwork, that dedication was so strong that day that the dog felt it,” Enright said.
The brotherhood among firefighters was on display then just as it still is every Sept. 11 when the anniversary of the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center in New York City arrives.
The 76-year-old Enright, who retired as a deputy district chief after 38 years of duty with the Chicago Fire Department, made the trip from Chicago to downstate Paxton on the 18th anniversary of 9/11 on Wednesday to visit his longtime friend, Paxton Fire Chief Denny Kingren, and provide remarks to the public as the featured speaker at the annual 9/11 memorial service at the Paxton firehouse.
His main message to the crowd: Just like a fire department, a community must come together and work together, in unity, to accomplish a common goal.
“The karma, the electricity, the trust, the love that grows within the fire service or a community, it’s there,” Enright said. “Take advantage of it.”
Enright pointed to Paxton-Buckley-Loda High School’s marching band and its director, Tim Hess, as an example of how a united group can work together to accomplish a common goal. The band performed for the crowd on hand immediately prior to the start of the memorial service.
“I learned a long time ago, it takes all sorts of instruments to get the result,” Enright said. “And it’s the same in the fire service or a community — it takes all sorts of ingredients to get the mix to work.”
With the number of newer firetrucks parked inside Paxton’s firehouse, Enright also credited the Paxton community for supporting its fire department to make sure it has the resources and equipment it needs.
That the community has also supported efforts to construct a 150-foot flagpole by PBL High School on the city’s west side by Flag Day next June is also commendable, Enright said.
“Man, I compliment you,” Enright said. “Where it’s going to be located, people are going to see it. It’s going to give your community an identity, and it’s going to draw some people here out of curiosity.”
But perhaps most important, he said: “Every day, (the kids going to school there) are going to have that patriotism built into their hearts, and they’re going to understand where it comes from.”
When Enright was driving to Paxton earlier in the day, he noticed flags being flown at half-mast and saw “the pride of America” on display everywhere, he said.
“I feel blessed I was born American, and I feel blessed that God let me be a firefighter for 38 years,” Enright said. “I appreciate the blessings and the bounty of America, and that’s what this meeting is about here tonight.”
Enright, a U.S. Army veteran of the Vietnam War, said he was pleased to see those same patriotic feelings on display at the firehouse in downtown Paxton.
“One thing I want to compliment you on: During the pledge of allegiance, the national anthem, the playing of it, I did not see one person kneeling — not one. That hit home with me.”