NEW JERSEY - To most people, they were simply old fire trucks, rusting away inside a salvage yard. But retired firefighter Jim Sullivan recognized that one of them was much, much more.
"We passed the junkyard where the fire trucks were. I instantly recognized them, I stopped to take a couple of pictures and that is when I noticed the memorial on one of the rigs," Sullivan said.
One of the firetrucks contained a tribute to five FDNY firefighters who died on 9/11. They were members of FDNY Firehouse Engine 279 & Ladder 131 in Red Hook, Brooklyn.
"It just struck me that this shouldn't be in a junkyard," Sullivan said.
"I felt very hurt, I felt really sad and shocked to see this," said Sally Regenhard, whose son, firefighter Christian Regenhard, was among the bravest memorialized on the truck. "One of the other reasons that I was shocked by what was happening with this fire truck, is all of the people on that listing who were all massacred together, their remains were never found so all of these people, the only thing that's left of them really is their good name."
Sullivan contacted the junkyard to ask if the memorial could be removed from the rig and returned to the firehouse. He then reached out to the Wayne Fire Department asking for their help.
"He was asking for our assistance to help remove that memorial and get it back to the firefighters and FDNY," said Mike Payne, chief of Packanack Lake Fire Company #5.
Firefighters with Fire Company #5 took their tools and removed the side panel with the names of the 5 heroes.
FOX 5 NY has learned that after 10 years, the FDNY takes the fire trucks out of service due to safety reasons. The memorials on the fire trucks are not the only tributes for the fallen 9/11 heroes; the fire department does have their own memorials and plaques to honor them as well.
The panel was delivered personally back to Engine 279 & Ladder 131.
The firehouse's new trucks now have the same tribute, as a decal.
"I agree with the sticker in this way, the names can be respectfully removed, and when they get a new fire truck, you know, in certain intervals, that they could use the sticker," said Regenhard. "I haven't seen it in person, I’ve only seen a copy of it, but right now, I think that's a good way to resolve this issue."
The FDNY tells Fox 5 the department is now reviewing its removal process for memorials and other personal markings on out-of-service rigs.