Rockford comes together to remember three heroes who died in the line of duty. Wednesday morning there was an emotional public memorial which honored the REACT flight crew for their sacrifice.
Rock Valley College's Physical Education Center was filled with first responders, hospital workers and community members who wanted to remember three people who dedicated themselves to helping others.
"We come here this morning with heavy hearts as we remember the lives, dedication and commitment of Andy Olesen, Karen Hollis and Jim Dillow," says Reverend William Wentink.
The three went down in the Rockford Memorial Hospital react helicopter last Monday night. Fellow flight nurse Tom Walsh stayed late that night to hang out with the three since pilot Andy Olesen had planned to retire the next week.
"The three of them they loved to work together," says Walsh
Walsh had been looking at pictures of flight nurse Jim Dillow's children when the call came in. His last words were "safe flight" as both the crew and he took off into the night.
"By the time I got home that night I got a phone call to come back to the hanger. It was pretty evident to me that something happened and it was not something good," says Walsh.
Dealing with emergencies is exactly what Olesen, Dillow and Hollis do along with the rest of the REACT team. It means extra hours of training and long shifts to pick up the most critically ill patients.
"Their lives were taken as they were doing God's work to take care of the sick, the injured and the dying," says Father Wentick.
"Each and everyone of them would tell you it is not a burden but a privilege to answer that call. If it was myself or a loved one in need it would be my great fortune to see the royal blue flight suits come through the door," says Dr. Robert Escara, REACT Medical Director.
As the memories came to a close fellow flight nurse Kristi Lohmar read a poem to bring some comfort to the hundreds left behind who's lives were touched by their works.
Lohmar read, "But we are not so far away, we really aren't apart. So be happy for us dear ones, you know we hold you dear and be glad we're spending Christmas with Jesus Christ this year."
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