An Honor Guard procession, the placing of a wreath, the forlorn wail of a lone bagpipe playing, and the mournful knell of bells Saturday marked the sacrifice of three fallen volunteer Palatine firefighters, John Wilson, Richard Freeman and Warren Ahlgrim, who perished during a fire rescue on Feb. 23, 1973.
"We do this every year," retired Palatine firefighter Mark Hallett said. "We never let their memory die. We never will."
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Roughly 200 people, including retired and current firefighters from Palatine, Arlington Heights, Rolling Meadows and Palatine Rural Fire, attended a ceremony Saturday at the Palatine Firefighters Memorial to honor the memory of their fallen brethren and commemorate the 40th anniversary of their deaths.
Ahlgrim, Freeman and Wilson perished of carbon monoxide inhalation when their air packs emptied while responding to a basement fire at a Ben Franklin variety store.
Palatine Fire Chief Scott Andersen said to this day the names of the department's fallen heroes are written on a dry-erase board on the firehouse wall to remember their sacrifices and as a cautionary reminder of the dangers of the job.
"One name on this dry-erase board is one too many," Andersen said. "This is what we do. This is our chosen profession. This is the tradition of a firefighter."