A firefighter is a hero once -- the day he agrees to take the job. Every day after that, he is just doing his job.
Although he doesn't remember where he heard it, that quote has stuck with Vernon Hills resident and firefighter Scott Vaughn. He started at the Vernon Fire Department in Lincolnshire 34 years ago, and is now a captain at the Fox River and Countryside Fire Department in St. Charles.
"Admittedly, I got into it for the same reason that a lot of young guys did, because it was an exciting looking job," Vaughn said. "As I matured into the career, you just realize it is just a good feeling of doing something for someone, doing the right thing, and you can really make a difference in people's lives."
Vaughn joined other area firefighters to start Remembrance Rescue Project when they heard that New York Fire Department Rescue 4 was up for auction in 2010. With a winning bid of $8,000, the group obtained the fire truck and restored it with help from volunteers.
The brainchild of firefighter Chris Gantz, the Remembrance Rescue Project is a not-for-profit organization created by firefighters to restore, preserve and share FDNY Rescue 4 and Rescue 5 fire trucks that were on the scene of the World Trade Center towers when they were attacked on Sept. 11, 2001.
All 11 firefighters with Rescue 5 and all nine firefighters with Rescue 4 lost their lives that day.
"This is not your typical fire truck. Every time you get in there the same mix of emotions go on," said Vaughn on driving the trucks.
"How can you sit in that seat and not try and envision what those guys were looking at through that same windshield, holding on to that same steering wheel, as they came around the corner out of the tunnel looking at those towers on fire."
The renovated trucks travel around the suburbs and the country as educational tools, historical artifacts and memorials. The project is an educational effort that strives to keep the memories alive of those lost on Sept. 11 and all firefighters killed in the line of duty every year.
Rescue 4 is currently stationed in Denver, Colo., and Rescue 5 is traveling in Florida. The group coordinates with host fire departments to facilitate 9/11 educational programming, memorials and remembrance events across the country.
The project is operated solely by firefighters from across the country volunteering their time. Costs for fuel, maintenance and travel are covered by donations from sponsorships, cash and the sale of T-shirts.