ROCKY MOUNT — A yearslong effort to bring a first responders memorial to Rocky Mount is nearing completion.

The monument, which honors first responders throughout Franklin County who died in the line of duty, was installed in October on North Main Street, beside the town’s public safety building.

The next step is landscaping the space to turn it into a “quiet, contemplative park,” said Assistant Town Manager Matt Hankins. At a Thursday news conference, he announced a fundraising drive that will help achieve that vision.

The memorial commission will sell brick walkway pavers honoring first responders, similar to the Veterans’ Memorial Park in town. Through 2021, bricks can be purchased in recognition of first responders who served a public safety agency within the county. After that time, first responders who served any locality can be recognized.

Order forms will be available at town and county offices, and also on a memorial Facebook page.

The commission is also accepting donations for park improvements, which will include walkways, landscaping, lighting and seating, among other things.

Hankins, who serves as the commission’s chairman, said there are plans for a formal dedication this summer. He hopes it will be in June, though the date will depend on how quickly the bricks are produced and installed.

The commission has been working to create a memorial for nine years, Hankins said. The group was formed following the July 2010 deaths of firefighters Posey Dillon and Danny Altice, who were killed when their fire truck was involved in a crash.

“It’s such an important community effort that we took our time,” Hankins said.

Hankins said he was glad that, with the pavers, there would also be an opportunity to recognize all first responders. He was optimistic about participation in the fundraising drive, noting just how many agencies — fire departments, rescue squads, town police, the sheriff’s office — serve Franklin County.

The memorial is a joint effort by the town and county. Each contributed $10,000. Money remaining from the Lights for Life campaign, a fundraiser to install a preemption system on traffic signals and first response vehicles that automatically gives them the green light, was also applied to the project.

Hankins said the memorial will serve as a reminder of the sacrifices that all first responders, paid or volunteer, make to ensure the safety of their communities.

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Casey Fabris covers Franklin County, Rocky Mount and Ferrum College.

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