RIPON — Two Ripon firemen are joining with the New York Fire Department brotherhood this week as a salute to the more than 300 firefighters and others who lost their lives Sept. 11, 2001 at the World Trade Center.
Ripon Battalion Chief Marty Cornilsen and volunteer firefighter Jason Fullmer took an American Airlines “red eye” that put them at Regan International Airport in Washington, D.C., at about 8 a.m. Thursday.
Fullmer said they felt it is important “just to be part of history and to be there for them in any way possible.”
They are being hosted by a volunteer department in Kentland, Maryland where they will bed down for the first two nights. On Sunday they will join those firefighters riding aboard one of their engines into Manhattan for the memorial – returning to the Kentland station for the remainder of their week.
The Ripon Battalion Chief, who also served as a military police officer in the Army, said he, vividly remembers what he was doing when the Twin Towers were hit that morning 10 years ago as did Fullmer.
“I had just gotten out of the shower,” Fullmer said, “and thought I was seeing a high rise building on fire on the TV.” Instead he watched a second airliner fly into the side of one of the buildings – a sight he will never forget.
Fullmer said the attack came only two weeks after the New York department lost three of its men killed in the “Fathers’ Day Fire” in a hardware store in Historia when combustibles in a basement exploded and turned the building into a ball of flames.
Chief Cornilsen remembers being in awe at seeing the massive tower structures come down in the attacks and felt he had to go back for the memorial ceremonies to show his respect. He has been working full-time for the Ripon Fire Department since November of 2001.
At the time of the attack Cornilsen said he had just returned from the Hill Hale Fire in El Dorado County that was followed by a large fire at the Vermeulen huller on West Ripon Road near Frederick Avenue.
He said he was still tired from the two consecutive fires that fateful morning when a buddy from his days as an MP at Fort Campbell Kentucky called him on the telephone. “Are you ready to go back to war?” he asked after telling him of the attacks. Cornilsen was working as a reserve emergency medical technician (EMT) at the time for Ripon.
He remembers taking a television to work where the men watched the news reports throughout the day. Both men are passionate about what they do and were drawn to be part of the ceremonies and to be there in support of those lost and for those who survived and their families.
Cornilsen said firefighters from Ripon, Wisconsin are also planning to go to the event. It is in nearby Appleton, Wisconsin, where Ripon purchases its engines. Firefighters have gotten to know each other over the years becoming sister cities. Kyle McCormick from Ripon, CA, is a firefighter with a New York department who is looking forward to welcoming the local contingent. McCormick graduated from Ripon High with the class of 1997 and worked for a short time as a volunteer fireman with Ripon.
McCormick’s dad is a battalion chief in Fremont and still lives in the Ripon community. He had also hoped to be able to attend the memorial event.
Volunteer firefighter Jason Fullmer has been in the fire service since 1996 mostly serving with the Salida department for 13 years before signing on with Ripon. Fullmer works numerous shifts each month and is employed by a fire equipment sales company on his day job. He said they carry and sell everything for fire fighters except for the fire engines.
Fullmer said that while the Maryland department is volunteer in nature, it is a busy department handling some 5,000 calls a year. He said hopefully they will get to see some action while there. As a volunteer in Ripon, he serves on one 24-hour shift and five 12-hour shifts throughout the month in addition to special call outs for the larger fires and traffic accidents. It was his wife Julee who had the idea that he needed to go to New York.
“One night she just said she wanted to send me back for the 10th anniversary of 9-11,” Fullmer said. If a full-time position would come open on a fire department, he would jump at the chance, he added.