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Tennesseans Donate $1M Firetruck

March 21, 2002

NEW YORK (AP) _ They donated their tax refunds and Boy Scout dues. They held bake sales and sold T-shirts.

After six months of fund raising, residents of east Tennessee on Thursday officially presented a new $1 million ladder truck to New York City in memory of the 343 firefighters who died in the World Trade Center attack on Sept. 11.

``This campaign really touched the hearts of East Tennesseans,″ Knoxville Mayor Victor Ashe said at a ceremony at Ladder 14 in East Harlem, which received the rig.

Capt. Steve Damato said he was moved beyond words.

``It’s something in the heart,″ he said. ``I thought, ‘Knoxville is at the end of the world. Who cares?’ Well, they care. And it means so much to us.″

Ladder 14 did not lose a truck in the attacks. The station received the new rig because their 11-year-old truck needed to be replaced. Government funds have already been earmarked to replace trucks destroyed at the trade center.

Communities across east Tennessee began raising the money two days after the attacks, which killed some 3,000 people. They intended to buy a $400,000 engine truck for the New York Fire Department, but exceeded their goal.

The state-of-the-art truck, bearing a plaque calling it the ``Freedom Engine,″ was delivered last week and has already been out on several fires.

``It’s like a Cadillac,″ firefighter Bob Faiella said. ``It’s a wonderful thing that they did. There’s just no way we can really thank them.″