They flocked to the middle of Carson City, young and old, rich and poor, with one common goal - to help raise money for the families of New York City firefighters lost in the terrorist attacks.
Two American airline jets were hijacked Tuesday and flown into the 110-story twin towers of the World Trade Center in Manhattan. Nearly 5,000 people - almost 300 firefighters and rescue workers among them - were in or near the buildings that morning as the attacks occurred, according to the Associated Press.
On Sunday more than 2,500 people stood in line at Mills Park from 12 to 5 p.m. to donate money and be served a feast of hot dogs, hamburgers, chips, soda and cookies at the Carson City Fire Department fund-raiser. Proceeds will benefit the New York City Fire Department. All food, aside from 850 hamburgers and condiments donated by A&W owner and city councilman Pete Livermore, was paid for out of the firefighters' pockets.
"This is an absolute tribute to firefighters across the nation and in Carson City," said Bob Schreihans, a captain of the Carson City Fire Department and president of the Carson City Firefighters Association, of the turnout. Schreihans said the Department does a fund-raiser every year, but that he has never seen a response like the one they received on Sunday.
"It's phenomenal," he said.
Cpt. Paul Hernandez was moved by the spectrum of people who donated at the barbecue and at boot collections during the week.
"We had a 3-year-old who gave us her half-full piggy bank and the guys were like, 'Thank you. Do you know what you're doing?' and she said, 'It's for people who are hurt,'" he said.
"We were pretty overwhelmed. There were people that we thought could use the money for themselves, but were giving it to us. We've had people signing over their income tax returns."
Patriots lined to sign a banner that will be sent to New York with the donations.
"I lost my cousin Ted Adderley on the 93rd floor. My thoughts are with all of you as they are with him and his family," signed Mike and Teresa Kenedy.
"We love our country. We love our heroes, victims, families, everyone, everywhere. God bless this great country. USA will live forever," wrote Bryan Werlinger.
"To our American heroes, you are in our thoughts and prayers. God bless our great nation," from Gloria and Keith McDonald.
Schreihans said the money raised will go to the New York Firefighters Relief Fund.
"We are still collecting money, so if you get a phone call from the firefighters, it's the real deal. Just only make the checks payable to the Carson City Fire Department," he said.
Firefighter Scott Baker thanked the crowd for their support.
"This is extraordinary for all you guys to show up and donate your hard-earned dollars," he said. "I especially want to thank my brothers and sisters for the hard work and dedication that they've shown in the last four days to raise over $100,000 for the firefighters in New York City."
The crowd erupted into cheers.
Trying to understand the scope of the tragedy, Schreihans talked about how firefighters are trained to battle high rise fires.
"We take over the buildings in a high rise fire. People are wondering why the firemen were in there. It's because they were thinking it's a big structure fire. Nobody expected that building to collapse. Our normal procedure is to put in firefighters, stage on the floors below and put the fire out. That building shouldn't have collapsed. We knew when it did, because of the way you fight high rise fires, it was gonna kill hundreds of firefighters," he said.
"Even if we had a highrise fire in Carson City today, we'd do the same thing, the same operation."