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Greenwich Celebrates Its Heroes Throughout History

GREENWICH, Conn. — Coinciding with the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, a major exhibit called “Everyday Heroes: Greenwich First Responders” will open at the Greenwich Historical Society . The exhibit will chronicle the history of Greenwich’s emergency services from 1779 to today.

“The show was planned for this year because it is the 10th anniversary" of 9/11, said Karen Frederick, one of the curators of the exhibit. “But what we want to make people realize is this goes on 24 hours a day, seven days a week. It’s a chance to say thank you to the people in the past, people in the present, and people in the future who have made this choice to get up every day and walk through doors not knowing what’s on the other side.”

The exhibition, opening Wednesday, Sept. 14, will delve into headline-making Greenwich disasters from 1873 to 2010, including the Greenwich Avenue conflagration of 1936 and the Mianus River Bridge collapse in 1983. It will look at the way emergency workers responded and how experience and technology has changed first-response protocols.

“One of the pictures we have is from a 1930s ambulance that came fully equipped with a stretcher with poles, as opposed to what comes to your door today, which is basically a hospital emergency room on wheels. It’s just amazing,” said Frederick.

The show chronicles the history of Greenwich’s Fire, Police and Emergency Medical Services. It begins with Gen. Israel Putnam, one of Greenwich’s “first” first responders who, in 1779, rode to warn of invading British troops and whose image appears on the town seal.

The exhibit has been three years in the making and features objects, photos and ephemera from the Greenwich Historical Society collection and from the collections of the fire, police, and GEMS departments. It also includes a revolving timeline and a hands-on gallery where kids can try on real equipment and learn what it takes to become a first responder. A simulated dispatch center will show how “sounding the alarm” has changed over time and includes an opportunity to “make” or “answer” a 911 call.

The heart of the exhibition is an exploration of values underlying civic service. Visitors will be asked to decide in their own minds what qualities define a hero. “We took advantage of the fact that this is a time when people will really be remembering first responders,” said Frederick. “Hopefully people will also remember that this is what these people do every day of their lives.”

The Greenwich Historical Society is at the Bush-Holley Historic Site, 39 Strickland Road, Cos Cob. Regular hours are noon to 4 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday. It is closed Monday and Tuesday.

Admission is $10 for adults, $8 for seniors and students, and free to members and children under 6. For more information call the historical society at 203-869-6899.

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