HANFORD — After seeing American flags flying during a ceremony in 2015 on the anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks, Hanford resident Shelli Barker knew she wanted to do something special for local first responders to show her appreciation.
So Barker brought pizzas, salads, drinks and cookies and took them to Hanford Fire Station 1 later that day.
This year, she decided to do it again with the hopes that others will join in during the coming years.
This time around, Barker was able to seek out donations from Fatte Albert's pizza, Sweet Palette Bakery and Chicken Shack for a luncheon that about 30 people attended. She said City Council District C candidate Mark Cole helped her as well.
As the daughter of a retired police officer and the sister of a Coalinga fire captain, Barker was surprised to find there weren’t more events to show appreciation to Hanford’s first responders.
She thought a small gesture like lunch was the least she could do.
“They’re real local heroes,” Barker said. “When something happens, we run away while they run in.”
Hanford fire Chief Chris Ekk said different families and organizations will come in on days like Sept. 11, Thanksgiving and Christmas to show extra support. Ekk said Savemart brought over cookies that day as a thank you.
“They know we’re away from our families, and they just want to show their support,” Ekk said. “We have a great community and we always feel that support.”
While the luncheon was at Station 1, Ekk said firefighters at other stations did things to commemorate the 15th anniversary of the attacks.
At Station 2, Ekk said firefighters did 343 burpee - squat thrust - exercises in the 102 minutes between the time when the first plane hit the first World Trade Center tower and when the second tower collapsed in honor of the 343 firefighters who died that day.
At each time when a landmark event happened on the anniversary, Ekk said the firefighters stopped to salute the flag and there were also alerts over the firefighters’ radio system. The names were also read of all the firefighters who died on 9/11.
In Hanford’s Civic Park, American Legion Post 3 held a changing of the colors flag ceremony with the retired flag being presented to the Hanford Fire Department, Barker said. The Hanford Carnegie Museum also gave each firefighter one of the coins commemorating the 125th anniversary of the city of Hanford as well as a book of photos on the history of Hanford.
Barker hopes similar luncheons can be held at other fire stations in the future.
“We plan on doing something next year,” she said. “The goal is to get things going at more stations. I would love for other folks to get involved in recognizing our first responders.”