By BRIAN WALKER
COEUR d'ALENE — Art recognizing the bravery and sacrifices of firefighters on Sept. 11, 2001, has a fitting new permanent home.
The "Twin Towers" monument created by artist Robert Stone of Broken Arrow, Okla., was dedicated on Saturday during an open house for Coeur d'Alene Fire's newest station as a timely tribute with today's anniversary of the terrorist attacks.
Jennifer Drake, chairwoman of the Coeur d'Alene Arts Commission, said the art outside the station on Atlas Road also honors heroes of our own community.
"I think you'll agree that it's ever more poignant that we're dedicating this piece today as smoke continues to fill the skies," Drake told roughly 150 attendees. "Fire is a real and ever-present threat. When businesses, homes and lives are in danger, there are a select few who run into the flames instead of away.
"If there is a way to honor these brave men and women — through loud praise or quiet thankfulness or steadfast art — then it is our privilege to do it."
"Twin Towers" features 343 stars that represent the fallen firefighters of 9/11. A helmet rests on a hand rail, as most of the firefighters who lost their lives died as they climbed the stairs. Large bolts, twisted metal and textured granite represent the buildings. The art was previously on display at City Park near Independence Point.
Stone, who was a firefighter in Montana, said in a narrative about the art that he has tasted smoke and understands to some degree what the firefighters must have gone through.
"As they went up the stairs carrying 100 pounds of equipment, they would climb and stop at every three levels, rest for 20 seconds and start again," Stone wrote. "This is what we are about. Americans do not quit. We will take the path until it's done."
The open house also featured a traditional wet-down and push-in ceremony featuring city officials and staff that signified the start of service for Engine 4.
The history related to pushing a new truck into the apparatus bay hails from the day when fire apparatus were horse-drawn. It was difficult at best for the old steam or hand pumper to be backed into the bay by a team of horses so it was often pushed in by the firefighters.
A fire hose was also uncoupled during the festivities to mark the official opening of the new station that was funded through a general obligation bond residents approved in 2015.
Chief Kenny Gabriel called the new station the "star of the day." He said it will reduce response times in the northwest section of the city.
"Time is our enemy," he said. "You can have the best equipment on earth, but if you can't respond in a timely way … . We're thankful that the city council had the foresight 20-some years ago to purchase this land."
Coeur d'Alene's Matt Johnstun, who brought his beaming 5-year-old son Jayce to the dedications and open house, said he's thankful the fire station is open.
"We live in the local neighborhood, so we drive by it every day and watched it be built," he said. "We were excited to finally come inside and check it out."