Herald JournalWinsted-Lester Prairie Journal, Sept. 9, 2002

Winsted fireman brings home a piece of history

By Julie Yurek

Winsted firefighter Ken Fitchwell brought back quite a souvenir after recently visiting his sister and brother-in-law at Long Island, New York.

He took a Winsted Fire Department T-shirt with, hoping he could get some signatures from New York firefighters and police near Ground Zero.

Fitchwell got about 20 signatures from firefighters, the NYPD, and even an emergency medical technician who was at the towers Sept. 11, he said.

"The firefighters really appreciated the support they're getting from everyone," he said.

Fitchwell saw a couple of guys from Engine 6 standing on the sidewalk and street and started up a conversation with them. He told them he was a firefighter from Winsted, Minn. and asked if they minded signing the shirt, Fitchwell said.

"They were nice about signing it," he said. "They had a sense of humor; they asked about Jesse."

"Engine 6 lost four of its fire fighters. The company was one of the first on the scene," Fitchwell said.

After Engine 6 did its signing, the Fitchwell family went on a boat ride around New York Harbor. The tour guide encouraged visitors to talk to firefighters and police, Fitchwell said. "So, I asked some people to sign."

Fitchwell and his wife, Dawn, and twin sons, Alan and Tony, 10, were in New York for five days, but were only able to spend one day in lower Manhattan, he said.

The shirt is being framed by fellow firefighter Mike Laxen, Fitchwell said.

If the shirt is finished in time for the one-year anniversary service Wednesday, Sept. 11, it will be displayed at the ceremony at Mill Reserve Park at 6:30 p.m., Fitchwell said.

If it's not done in time, the public is welcome to view it at the fire hall, he said.

The best time for the public to see the shirt is during fire meetings and drills, the first and third Mondays of the month at 7 p.m., because the doors will be open at that time, Fitchwell said.

Pictures he took of firefighters signing the T-shirt will surround the framed shirt, he said.

Fitchwell saw the World Trade Center towers a few times before the attacks. It was Fitchwell's fourth time visiting New York, he said. The last time was about five years ago.

"Ground Zero is a big hole in the ground. It looks like a construction site," he said. "It's quite an impact to see it."

The day of the attacks, Fitchwell's sister, Peggy Hill, was working from home at Long Island. Her husband, Gary, was a little close for comfort. He was working only eight blocks away on Wall Street, but made it home safely, covered in dust, Fitchwell said.

Fitchwell has been on the fire department for 15 years. Originally from Pittsburgh, he has lived in Winsted for 17 years. He works at Lifecore Biomedical in Chaska.

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