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New York fire truck from 9/11 stops by Northwestern University

Members Northwestern football team  check out Rescue 4 fire truck from New York City display today Northwestern Evanston.

Members of the Northwestern football team check out the Rescue 4 fire truck from New York City on display today at Northwestern in Evanston. On September 11th, 2001, 8 members of Rescue 4 headed to the the World Trade building on this truck and zero came home. The Remembrance Rescue Project raises money for children from families of any fallen firefighter. It will tour the Illinois area this week in memory of the 10th anniversary of 9-11-01. | Al Podgorski~Chicago Sun-Times

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Updated: November 9, 2011 11:54AM

The firetruck looked like any other, but when it rolled through the gates at Northwestern’s practice field Tuesday afternoon and a hush fell over the Wildcats, it brought the eerie feeling there was a serious story to come.

The truck and members of FDNY Rescue 4 were at practice to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks at the World Trade Center. Though all eight of its responders lost their lives that day, the truck was the only rig that remained intact and operational enough to serve New York after the attacks.

The truck also will be at Ryan Field on Saturday when the Wildcats host Eastern Illinois in their football home opener (2:30 p.m.).

Most Wildcats players were too young to understand 9/11 at the time, including quarterback Dan Persa, from Bethlehem, Pa.

‘‘I remember a lot, like where I was, in seventh grade sitting in a class, and a bunch of kids were getting called out of class,’’ Persa said. ‘‘I remember not really knowing what was going on. I just remember going home and my parents were pretty upset. I remember it vividly.

‘‘At the time, I knew it was a big deal, but I didn’t understand how big of an effect it was going to have at the moment. But every year that went by, it would hit me more and more.’’

Coach Pat Fitzgerald has his own memories of that day. As NU’s linebackers/special teams coach, he was in Evanston in a meeting with other coaches when administrative assistant Carolyn Fleming came into the room and told the staff what had happened.

What made Fitzgerald nervous was that his wife, Stacy, was driving back to Evanston from Idaho, where Fitzgerald had just finished a stint as a defensive graduate
assistant. For a while, he couldn’t reach her.

‘‘Cell phones weren’t as cool as they are now,’’ Fitzgerald said. ‘‘I don’t remember when I reached her — somewhere in the Dakotas, I think. It was a little scary for a while.’’

Fitzgerald remembers going out to practice that day like it was any other. And while the Wildcats were trying to focus, his lasting
image was of an airplane — probably a military aircraft — flying over Evanston that morning.

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