Orange County firefighter pays tribute to Sept. 11 victims

September 11, 2013 12:00:00 AM PDT
An Orange County firefighter is paying tribute to the first responders who lost their lives in the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. He filled his front lawn with hundreds of crosses to honor them.

All morning, people stopped by Orange County Fire Authority firefighter Scott Townley's home to take a look at all the names, reflect and remember that fateful day.

"You would think after so many years that you wouldn't be so emotional, but it's very touching, very emotional," said neighbor Darlene Lomeli.

Suzanne Alcantra brings her sons to see tribute every year.

"I'm born and raised in New York, so that's partly why this is really meaningful to me," she said.

Townley's tribute began 12 years ago, and it has been growing steadily since then. The tribute, which is in the front lawn of Townley's Fullerton residence, began with crosses for each firefighter and police officer killed on Sept. 11.

"It took me 11 months to make the crosses," Townley said.

The tribute then grew with the addition of a large cross that displays the names of the civilians who died in the attacks. Townley also made flags for each of those civilians. It took Townley nine-and-a-half months to sew on the nearly 3,000 names onto the flags.

This year for the first time, Townley added about 1,400 additional flags in his lawn, representing each person who died after Sept. 11 due to various illnesses from working at Ground Zero.

Townley said he made the memorial to recognize his comrades. He said he's received many visitors from all over the country, including family members of victims.

The memorial takes a lot of work to set up. Townley said it takes 15 volunteers about 12 hours to display all the flags and crosses.

"I've got to take all the crosses out of the garage. I store them in the garage. We take the bags off them, we organize them, we get them set up. Then we bring them out to the yard, I put a screw in them and we go ahead and set them in the ground," Townley described. "As far as the flags go, they're in big Tupperware bins. I have lots of volunteers that sit on the grass and painstakingly put them in one by one."

Townley said he conducted hours of research to make sure all the names are correct. He has plans to make the memorial even bigger next year by adding the names of each troop member who has died in Iraq and Afghanistan.

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