WINTER SPRINGS, Fla. – The Central Florida-based Running 4 Heroes nonprofit hosted its first annual Fallen Heroes Memorial Wednesday, honoring the lives of 275 first responders who died in the line of duty.
Among those honored was Apopka firefighter Austin Duran, who died after being injured on the job last year.
“It’s incredibly emotional,” said the 25-year-old’s father, Michael Duran. “Sad that we have to be here, but still honored at the same time.”
Michael Duran attended Wednesday’s ceremony and saw his son’s memorial for the first time. He said he think it’s important to have a place where the community can learn about the sacrifices first responders make.
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“I think just having something that family and the general public can come and kind of learn whether they knew the first responder or not (is important),” Michael Duran said. “They can still come and learn a bit of history and what happened and what these men and women go through on a daily basis.”
The Tribute Hall also houses 9/11 memorabilia and personal items from other first responders all over the country.
Lupita Gutierrez’s husband was an accident investigator with the Harris County Sheriff’s Office in Texas.
“He truly cared and loved what he did,” Gutierrez said.
While directing traffic, her husband was hit by a woman driving under the influence. He later died from his injuries.
Gutierrez traveled to Winter Springs to see her husband’s memorial in person.
“It’s very heartwarming,” Guiterrez said. “It really is an honor to be here and to see how everyone comes together.”
CEO of Running 4 Heroes, Chad Cartledge, said the organization plans to hold this memorial service every year to honor the lives of the first responders who gave the ultimate sacrifice protecting our communities.
“We’re going to hold a memorial service very similar to what we did today to, you know, give those surviving families an opportunity to come in and be shown love and be shown appreciation and to grieve, but to also show the community the number of sacrifices that were made in the prior year,” Cartledge said.
Cartledge said the Tribute Hall plans to host local schools for field trips in order to educate kids on the importance of the sacrifice first responders make.
If you’d like to learn more about Running 4 Heroes, click here.
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