Tour, Ceremony Mark Donation Of Fire Truck

AKRON, Ohio (AP) - A new fire truck purchased by the Greater Akron Fire Truck Fund toured the Akron area Tuesday, as people touched it, peeked inside and took its picture before it heads to its new home, New York City.

The fund, a community project, was initiated Sept. 16 by the Akron Beacon Journal to do something tangible for New York following the Sept. 11 terrorist attack at the World Trade Center.

On Friday, the Beacon Journal will publish a 30-page special section listing the names of the nearly 50,000 people who donated to the fund.

Students at Otis Hatton Elementary School stood along a sidewalk, waving flags and cheering as the truck pulled up in front of their school.

Tom Grein, general manager of Aerialscope, the Richmond, Va., company that built the truck's boom unit, climbed down after extending the 95-foot ladder, shaking his head.

"I was fighting back a tear up there," he said, looking at the sea of smiling young faces at the school.

The truck made a series of stops, beginning at 7 a.m. at Acme No. 1 grocery store in Akron and finishing at 1 p.m. at Green High School, before continuing to a downtown Akron public dedication ceremony in the evening.

There was a wide ranging pride of ownership in the $850,000 fire truck.

Mary Jane Eshleman, 89, contributed to the fund in a collection taken among the Center Towers senior citizen residents. Eshleman seemed apologetic when she said she had contributed "only $5" to the fund. But small donations were encouraged, and nearly $1.5 million was raised.

The fund also purchased two ambulances and three police cruisers.

The vehicles were dedicated in a ceremony Tuesday evening. New York Assistant Fire Commissioner Tom McDonald was present, along with Akron Mayor Don Plusquellic, Beacon Journal Publisher James Crutchfield and columnist David Giffels.

"I'm here today to say thank you," McDonald told several hundred people. "This is an emotional thing for me. On Sept. 11, I was there. By the grace of God, I went in one direction and my friends went in another."

Among the thousands who died were 343 New York City firefighters, 23 New York City police officers and 37 New York City port authority officers, McDonald said.

"These numbers are a bit more personal for me," he said, his voice breaking. "They represent my friends."

(Copyright 2001 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)