Honoring First Responders: Rocky Mount memorial nears completion

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ROCKY MOUNT, Va (WDBJ7) For Jonathan Lovelace, nothing compares to being a firefighter. "Wouldn't trade it for the world," said Lovelace with a smile.

He's spent the last year here at the Rocky Mount Fire Department training, learning, and becoming a part of the community. And during that time, right next door, he's watched a quiet memorial grow.

"Well we've been working on developing this memorial for about the last eight years," said Matt Hankins, the assistant town manager in Rocky Mount. He's been involved in this project since the beginning.

The main memorial stone was put in place in October of 2018, and stands about 8 feet high. It's carved with the symbols for the Franklin County Police, Fire and EMS on one side. On anther hang the names and pictures of a dozen Franklin County first responders who died in the line of duty. Now the next step according to Hankins, is "selling brick pavers as a way to honor our first responders."

The funds will help build out and maintain the memorial, and will feature the names of donors or honorees carved into their surface. "We'll sell as many as we can fit," said Hankins.

During the first three years, members of the public can purchase a brick honoring anyone who has served as a first responder in Franklin County. After that, bricks can be purchased honoring any first responder with a connection to the county.

"We want our community to be able to visit this as a contemplative monument so that they can think about the way that first responders affect us every single day of our lives," he said. That, and the way this community was affected one specific day, back in 2010.

"It was a painful moment," said Hankins.

In July of that year, firefighters Posey Dillon and Danny Altice, were responding to a call, when their truck was hit. "And unfortunately both firefighters lost their lives," said Hankins.

And in that moment, the memorial was born, a spot to honor not only Dillon and Altice, but all first responders killed in the line of duty in Franklin County.

Eventually, he hopes this lot becomes a full fledged memorial park, with a fountain, trees, and benches so visitors can stop and read the names carved into the memorial's side.

"When it comes down to it, we're all one line, we're all one big community helping to serve others," said Jonathan Lovelace.

Lovelace never got to serve with Posey Dillon or Danny Altice.
But he knows their memories will be with him, right next door.

"We'll always have our brothers by our side at all times," said Lovelace.