Organization inspired by heroes of 9/11 pays tribute on its own 10th anniversary
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- As the country remembers the victims of 9/11, a local organization used the tragedy to make a difference in the lives of fallen heroes.
The organization was created 10 years ago and chose 9/11 because of its symbolism. Since then, it has provided financial and emotional support for more than one-hundred families of fallen heroes.
"He responded to a grass fire on September 25th of 2010," said Lanett Stewart, who is the daughter of a fallen firefighter.
Four years ago Stewart lost her father. He was a long-time Indiana firefighter. She said "He had a heart attack after he responded and died from that."
Ronald Stephan was only 61 years old, that's why his death was devastating and unexpected.
"About four hours after he passed these people showed up," said Stewart. "And I remembered thinking...who's the big guy?"
Those people were Supporting Heroes and the "big guy" was Eric Johnson.
Stewart said, "It was incredibly hard for my mom, obviously she was devastated and we were loss and then out of nowhere people want to give you money and want to help."
"We recognize that when a hero falls that there are immediate needs and concerns of a family," said Eric Johnson, executive director of Supporting Heroes.
Johnson says the organization was created to meet those needs and concerns and on this 10th anniversary, that has grown from an initial $3,000 commitment to monthly support.
"It's a down payment on a promise and that promise is that we're going to be there for the long haul...we're going to give them monthly income to support them and take care of all of their financial needs," said Johnson.
A plaque in the office displays the names of more than one-hundred Kentuckiana fallen heroes who have died in the line of duty in the last 10 years. Supporting Heroes has made a personal connection to all of them; it's never easy, but often rewarding.
Johnson explained, "When a family member does say 'you know, if it wasn't for the support of supporting heroes, I would have lost my home, I don't know what I would have done' you know, that is rewarding."
"My real passion is in working with other survivors," said Stewart.
Today, Lanett Stewart works for supporting heroes. Perhaps her employment is an answer to the firefighter's prayer. It reads: "if I lose my life, please protect with blessing hand my children and my wife."
Supporting Heroes is always in need of funding.
The goal is to make sure the money is there in advance, to be prepared for if and when the next tragedy happens.
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