When he took office Rome-Floyd County Fire Chief Troy Brock made clear the completion of the long-discussed Firefighters Memorial Plaza was going to be a priority for his administration.
It has been talked about for years and late-Chief Bobbie McKenzie had dreamed up the idea — and Saturday that idea came to fruition.
"When I got my administration set up, the first meeting I said this is no longer going to be a vision, this is going to be a reality," Chief Brock said.
Brock and virtually every firefighter on the force participated in a variety of fundraising drives over the last couple of years to complete the fundraising for the plaza that McKenzie first proposed more than a decade ago.
Fundraising efforts were slow to evolve and got put on a back burner over the years.
The budget was the plaza was approximately $125,000 and the in-kind of efforts by a lot of different groups finally enabled Brock and his team to break ground for the plaza in March of this year.
"This is an awesome day for the Rome-Floyd County Fire Department," Brock said.
The site for the plaza, at West Sixth Avenue and West First Street was identified more than 15 years ago. It was originally the site of the old station seven many decades ago.
Brock said the memorial bricks that are part of the plaza represent more than just the name on them.
"These people on these bricks represent courage, sacrifices made, birthdays, Christmases, Thanksgivings missed, people who went into some environments to help others that most people — no way. It takes a rare individual to be a firefighter, I don't know what makes us do it. We're different."
"This is going to be a great asset for the future," said Floyd County Manager Jamie McCord.
His counterpart in the city, Sammy Rich said, the plaza will be a great addition to the attractions around City Hall, from the replica of the Capitoline Wolf to the Admiral Henry Towers statue and now the Firefighters Memorial statue.
A large crowd came out for the ceremonies which included the unveiling of a statue created by Richard Arnold of Telluride, Colorado, who coincidentally, is married to Marshall Hackett, who was born and raised in Rome.
Arnold, who grew up in San Diego in a family with ties to firefighters.
"They told me what it was all about. I normally do Vietnam memorials all across the country because I am a Vietnam vet," Arnold said. “I thought these guys, most of them as so unselfish, good sincere people. That emotionally turned me on to get me involved as opposed to getting a contract to do a sculpture of blank. I know what these guys have gone through and I've been close to what they've done."
Arnold said it only took about a month to actually do the mold and then it took about two months to actually get the bronze casting completed.
In addition to the statue, the plaza features the original stones from the doorway of Mountain City Fire Company number two recovered from the Oostanaula River years ago.
There are benches and other plaques which list the names of all the previous chiefs of the fire department, the history of the department, the Firefighters Prayer and mission statement for the Rome-Floyd Fire Department.
Brock offered thanks anyone who had a hand in making the plaza a reality, from the architects at Cevian Design, to the staff at Brooks Building Group and Rome M0nument Company and several others who had a hand in developing the plaza.
Engraved bricks to memorialize someone who may have been affiliated with fire services, not only in Rome, but other communities as well, are still available. People can call 706-236-4500 to get a brick placed into the plaza.