Brad Choat (Twitter: @choatsnews)

BELLEVILLE, Ill. (KMOX) – More than 350 firefighters from around the southern Illinois region attended a 9/11 memorial service in Belleville on Sunday.

Belleville Fire Chief Tom Pour says he asked for volunteers to represent the number of firefighter lives lost at Ground Zero fifteen years ago, “I’ve been to seven firefighter funerals in this (Metro St. Louis) area during my career. That’s seven too many, obviously. I can’t imagine the New York Fire Department and surrounding departments that went to 343 funerals in just a short amount of time.”

The firefighters walked two-by-two, up to the new “September 11th Memorial Walkway of Southern Illinois” outside the fire house. It includes a 35 foot long, 7100 pound steel beam salvaged from the World Trade Center rubble.

Belleville mayor Mark Eckert witnessed the parade of firefighters, “It really sets you back – both with great pride and also some chills.”

The walkway is dedicated to the lives lost in the 9/11 terrorist attacks and to those first-responders and military who played a part in the nation’s aftermath. To see a photo gallery from the ceremony click here.

The commander of Scott Air Force Base’s 375th Air Mobility Wing, Colonel Laura Lenderman spoke to the hundreds in attendance, Saturday, “On September 11th our enemies wanted to terrify us, but we chose to be courageous. Our enemies wanted to weaken us, but we chose to be strong. Our enemies wanted to divide us, but we chose to stand together.”

Belleville police chief Bill Clay also spoke, “The same spirit of healing that carried the nation forward after 9/11 is with us and will see us through the challenges we face today.”

The ceremony marked the completion of phase one of the walkway project. For more information, visit .

(TM and Copyright 2016 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2016 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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