On Sept. 11, 2001, after hijackers crashed a plane into the Pentagon, members of the Kensington Volunteer Fire Department reported for duty at .
"We didn't have to call them. We didn't have to send out a page," said James Stanton, KVFD fire chief. "They knew they were needed, and they showed up."
And they made their way to Pentagon City, cramming five firefighters into a four-seater ambulance, and helped recover victims and battle blazes, Stanton said.
On Saturday, about 60 people crowded around the front of the station to see a dedication ceremony for KVFD's newly constructed 9/11 memorial, which features a slab of limestone from the Pentagon and a 16-foot beam from the wreckage of the World Trade Center.
Speaking at the dedication were Stanton, KVFD President Steven Semler, Mayor Pete Fosselman, a representative from the office of Rep. Chris Van Hollen, FBI agent Robert McFeely and many of the contractors who donated their services to construct the memorial.
The memorial would have cost about $500,000, Semler said, but thanks to the donations of more than 30 local builders and suppliers, KVFD was able to construct it at nearly no cost.
Steve Heidenberger, president of Heidenberger Construction, spearheaded the process, recruiting many of contractors. Semler presented him with a personalized firefighter's hat, making him an honorary member of KVFD.
"I wanted to build this memorial not with money, but with volunteers," he said.
Heidenberger's brother, Tom, has a personal connection to the memorial: His wife, Michelle, was killed in the 9/11 attacks.
Tom Heidenberger said the memorial will not only honor those who died but remind future generations of their sacrifice.
"They're going to ask, 'Mommy, daddy, what is this?'" he said. "Each of us will be able to explain to them what happened and the thousands of people who lost their lives that day."
After the speeches, members of the fire department gathered to ring the Bell of Remembrance, a 3,500-pound bell inscribed with the names of New York firefighters killed on 9/11. The Rockville High School Pipe Band played "Amazing Grace" behind the mangled beam to conclude the ceremony.
Bricks engraved with the names of donors line the area around the beam, and KVFD is still accepting donations for the memorial.
Fosselman said the memorial's dedication marks a great day for the Kensington community.
"I'm honored, as the mayor and on behalf of everyone in the town, to have this memorial in Kensington," he said.
McNeely said the FBI is working day and night to prevent future terrorist attacks.
"We measure success one day at a time, but we are always looking out on the horizon," he said. "As Thomas Jefferson once said, the price of freedom is eternal vigilance."
Semler said the memorial serves to honor the first-responders who lost their lives on 9/11, but also those who continue to put themselves in danger to protect others.
"That's the risk we choose to take in exchange for the sacred honor of doing what we do," he said.