18-year-old Rockford student receives 9/11 scholarship to fulfill dream of becoming a firefighter

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ROCKFORD, Ill. (WTVO) — Rockford’s first responders honored firefighters lost in the line of duty Wednesday, to mark the 18th anniversary of the deadly 9/11 attacks in New York City.

The day was also about the next generation which will pick up the mantle to protect their fellow citizens.

During the attacks, Americans were impressed by the willingness of firefighters and police to step in and help others, and horrified by the massive casualties suffered that day.

“While some remember September 11th as one of the darkest days in our history, we also must never forget that it was an incredible day of heroism, bravery, and sacrifice,” said Rockford Mayor Tom McNamara at today’s ceremony at the Winnebago County 9/11 Emergency Responder’s Memorial, at 650 W. State Street.

For one Rockford teen, his father’s job as a firefighter inspired him to pursue a career as a first responder.

To honor those who lost their lives that day, the Winnebago County 9/11 Emergency Responder’s Memorial Board awards a scholarship to a Rock Valley College student pursuing a degree in a fire, police, or EMS program.

18-year-old Fire Science student, Joseph Krein, was this year’s recipient.

“I hope to be one of those individuals one day, to protect and serve,” Krein said.

To apply for the scholarship, Krein wrote a speech about what the events of 9/11 meant to him, even though he wasn’t even 1-year-old in 2001.

His father, Jimmy, is a captain in the Rockford Fire Department, which gives Krein a unique perspective on the job.

“When I think of all the firemen who lost their lives that day, I can’t help but think about all the children who lost a parent that day,” Krein said. “It is a reminder to me that my father’s job involves certain risks. My father is a big part of my life, and I can’t imagine what my life would be like if he were gone.”

Krein said his father is one of his best teachers.

“I have a great relationship with my father. He…was my basketball coach growing up, and now he’s kind of my coach in the fire department, I guess you could say,” he said.

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