TERRE HAUTE —
Answering the call of duty, several Terre Haute and Vigo County emergency responders have died in the line of duty over the past 120 years.
On Sunday afternoon, nearly 200 people turned out to remember those who have paid the highest possible price, paying tribute during the annual Fallen Heroes Day ceremony at the Fire-Police Museum at Eighth and Idaho streets.
“This day is for us to remember your loved ones,” Fire Chief Jeff Fisher told the large crowd at the service. “And our heroes.”
During the ceremony, which lasted about one hour, Fisher read from a list of the names of the city’s firefighters who have died in the line of duty beginning with firefighter Dan Roper, killed in 1897. After each name was read, a bell was rung. Fisher’s list ended with the name of Capt. Ralph Stott Jr., who died fighting a fire in 2002.
John Plasse, police chief, then read a list of police officers killed in the line of duty beginning more than 100 years ago. His list ended with officer Brent Long, who was shot and killed July 11 of last year while attempting to serve an arrest warrant.
The names of members of the Vigo County Sheriff’s Department that died in the line of duty were also read, including Kevin Artz (1987), Aaron Schoffstall (2000) and Enrico Garcia (2007).
Also, the names of area volunteer firefighters who died in the line of duty were also read as the bell was rung.
“It really just means a lot to honor those who have put their life on the line and given their all for their community,” said Jennifer Harrah, whose husband, James, is a Terre Haute firefighter and a member of the Pipes and Drums corps that played during the ceremony. “It hits home because my husband is a firefighter and he goes to work and we hope everyday that he’ll come home. But there’s always a chance that might not happen,” she said.
Indiana State University Police patrol sergeant Ian Loomis said he once considered leaving his career in law enforcement, but changed his mind after the death of Long one year ago.
“Last year at this time I was enrolling to go back to school to get my physician’s assistant license,” Loomis said after the ceremony. “After Brent died, it never crossed my mind again. I realized that the career I’m in is the career I’m supposed to be in.”
Mayor Duke Bennett, who also spoke during the ceremony, said Long’s death reminded the community that tragedy can happen at any time.
“You never know when tragedy can hit,” Bennett said. “Let us remember those who have given their lives. … Let’s not forget.”
Reporter Arthur Foulkes can be reached at (812) 231-4232 or firstname.lastname@example.org.