Quad Cities community shows their support for local first responders at River of Life Unity Day

Rock Island, Ill. (KWQC) - The Quad Cities community came together on Saturday to show their appreciation of first responders, including those who have paid the ultimate sacrifice.

Law enforcement officers appreciated in Rock Island's River of Life Unity Day event

Nearly 2,000 people were at the Second Annual River of Life Unity Day showing police officers, EMTs, and firefighters how much they mean to the Quad Cities.

"In our job, we don't get a lot of 'thank you's," said Batallion Chief Terry Smith from the Rock Island Fire Department.

But on Saturday evening, they got nearly two thousand.

"It's important we support our first responders. They're the first responders when we need them and the first when we don't. Sometimes people call and they don't need anything, but they still respond so I think it's important that we show them that we care as a community," said Bonnie Jacobs, a volunteer at the event.

First responders do much more than just their job description - with the Rock Island fire department receiving over 7,000 calls to 9-1-1 this year alone.

"Not only do we do fire, we do EMS, we do hazmat. If you're having a problem with anything, people nowadays like to call 911. So, fire shows up or police officers show up. We never know what's gonna go on, it just depends on the day," explained Smith.

With each call comes a risk these men and women know too well.
In January, Clinton firefighter Lt. Eric Hosette was killed in an explosion and fellow firefighter Adam Cain was seriously hurt.
In April, a Davenport police officer - shot.
In June, Fulton County Sheriff's Deputy Troy Chisum, shot and killed.

Smith says the risks are part of the job, and those tragedies weren't the first time he's faced a difficult moment. "We're all brothers. It tears a little bit at the heart. I actually knew 7 guys that went down at the world trade center because I was there 2 years before that and I met a lot of guys. And it tears at your heart when something like that happens. Right now there's a gentleman on the Arsenal fire department that has cancer and he just started the battle so that's why we're all wearing wristbands for him. He's been on the department for a few years so we're all fighting and pulling for him."

While those situations are tough, it only brings everyone closer.

"When the community and a neighborhood come together like this and show appreciation for what they've done, even when stuff happens like that - they can bounce back and do it well," said organizer Howard Armstrong.

This is the second time Rock Island's hosted this event, and organizers say they want to bring even more people next year to show their appreciation.