Two long-passed Amherst fire chiefs and the 343 firefighters who died as a result of terror attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, are now enshrined on Milan Avenue.
Jim Wilhelm, historian and assistant fire chief, spent months working to create a memorial wall outside the city’s fire museum at the Sandstone Village.
It pays tribute to chiefs Charles Edwards and John Einwachter, who died in the line of duty.
Edwards died in December 1958 while fighting a house blaze on Quarry Road. But Wilhelm said it wasn’t the flames that finally defeated the 27-year veteran — it was his heart, which gave out just as he stepped into the fire station at city hall to respond to the call.
Chief for eight years, Edwards was the driving force behind construction of the Church Street fire station in 1959. It was dedicated in his honor.
Einwachter served on the fire department for 42 years, starting shortly after it was founded in 1876. He was chief for 19 of those years.
So popular was Einwachter that one night in 1915 after his retirement he was roused by city crews to lead the charge against a fire at the Amherst Elevator Company on East and Maple streets.
The current chief was out of town and the men had no patience for or faith in the assistant chief, Wilhelm said. They turned instead to the man who had led them time and again into the flames.
Einwachter returned to bed that night and never left it again, dying two weeks later.
In the center of the new memorial wall is a plaque dedicated to the hundreds of New York firefighters killed when planes slammed into the World Trade Center towers.
“It was an act of war on this country. When you’re talking about 343 firemen, that’s something we need to remember, to honor,” Wilhelm said.
At the foot of the wall lie pavers engraved with the names of Amherst firefighters. More than 370 have taken up the cause of protecting the city in the past 140 years, and Wilhelm hopes to one day have every single name etched at the site.
Whether serving for a month or 25 years, every firefighter deserves to be remembered, he said.
Each firefighter’s paver can be sponsored for $75. Checks can be made out to Live Oak Engine Co. 2 and sent or dropped off at the fire station, 414 Church St., Amherst.
For more information, call chief Greg Knoll or assistant chief Wilhelm.
There are some older firefighters who no longer have family left in the area. Wilhelm said those are the ones he would especially like to see sponsors step up to memorialize.
When the American Legion, VFW, and Amherst Eagles gather this fall to observe the anniversary of the attacks, the ceremony will be held at the memorial wall.
All three organizations helped pay for the memorial to be built, said Wilhelm.
Jason Hawk can be reached at 440-988-2801 or @EditorHawk on Twitter.
Photos by Jason Hawk | Amherst News-Times Two axes have been placed above plaques memorializing Amherst former fire chiefs John Einwachter and Charles Edwards, as well as the 343 firefighters lost on Sept. 11, 2001.