Northern Nevada residents poured more than a half million dollars into the outstretched boots of firefighters in a weekend collection effort to benefit families of firefighters killed in the Sept. 11 attacks in New York City.
At grocery stores, parks and street intersections from Reno to Minden, Virginia City to Lake Tahoe, area residents over and over filled firefighter boots with everything from pennies to large checks.
In four days, Carson City firefighters banked $109,000, including $25,000 from a Sunday barbecue which drew an estimated 3,000 people.
"I think it just touched Americans' hearts and souls," Carson Fire Inspector Duane Lemons said. "They're reaching deep into their pockets for whatever reason. People are just so wonderful at this time."
Lemons said as he and Bob Schreihans, president of the Carson City Firefighters Association, made a deposit Saturday night, a young boy approached the bank teller clutching a $5 bill.
"He said, "I want those guys in New York to have it,'" Lemons said. "He said it was his allowance, but he didn't need it that badly.
"We appreciate their donations. It's going for a good cause. Hopefully, the children of the loved ones lost will get this and be able to carry on through life and get over this tragedy."
Around 300 firefighters are listed as missing in the World Trade Center tragedy, six times the number of Carson City firefighters and the same number of firefighters in the entire Reno Fire Department.
"I truly think people were touched by some of the comments the victims made as they were exiting the twin towers," said Reno firefighter Joe Lewis. "As they were going down the stairwells, the firefighters were going up. They knew they were going into harm's way, but they willingly did this. I think that's what's tugging on everyone's hearts."
Spending one weekend at the intersection of Reno's South Virginia Street and McCarran Boulevard, Reno firefighters gathered $175,000, Lewis said. They have yet to count the change in two, 20-gallon barrels and will continue collection efforts through Sept. 29.
"Out there in the intersection with all the firefighters, people were saying, "We appreciate what you do for us,'" Lewis said. "That got to me more than anything else. I never felt that in my 28 years with the city of Reno that type of compassion for the job I do. We've been thanked, but never like that. We're doing something for New York City, and they're thanking us."
In their four days of collection, Douglas County's East Fork Fire Protection District gathered more than $155,000 and people are still bringing donations to fire stations.
"This is just amazing," said East Fork Capt. Bob Barrett. "We were hoping for $15,000 or $20,000. God bless you and thank you very much."
Nevada Division of Forestry crews garnered more than $60,000 in their weekend collection.
The Storey County Fire Department passed the boot around the Comstock community of 1,000 and came up with more than $11,500, including $1,600 raised at a community barbecue.
"We see it as our duty to help in the relief effort for the families of our fellow firefighters who gave their lives to help others," said Storey County Fire Chief Gary Hames.
Members of the North Lake Tahoe Fire Protection District also collected $55,000.