Sacrifices honored on tree of stars

Published 9:21 pm Thursday, November 29, 2018

Since Sunday evening, a 6-foot-tall, white Christmas tree has been shining bright at 2000 Brians Lane. It glows on the front lawn with more than 200 stars painted in stark red and blue.

Bill Price and his family have been writing the names of firefighters, police officers and others who serve on each of the stars. Each name is written in black, along with their departments and the day that they made the ultimate sacrifice.

Each one represents someone that has died this year. On Monday night, Price’s wife Cindy walked out of their house with another blue star representing Deputy Sheriff Tony Hinostroza with Stanislaus County Sheriff’s Department in California.

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Hinostroza was killed on Sunday in a vehicle crash as he responded to assist other deputies who were involved in a vehicle pursuit in Riverbank, according to the Officer Down Memorial Page website. He was 45 years old.

The couple look at their “2018 Fallen Heroes Tree” Facebook page, the Officer Down Memorial Page and other online resources every night to honor more men and women. The Facebook page was updated on Wednesday morning with information on New Jersey State Trooper Robert Nagle, who died on Monday as a result of an illness contracted while responding to World Trade Center terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001.

There were 134 police officers represented on the tree as of Monday night, along with 98 firefighters in red and 26 K-9 Unit dogs, whose blue stars each had paw prints.

Price and his wife also keep track of the first responders who have died from illnesses resulting from their service following Sept. 11, 2001 attacks. According to the Uniformed Firefighters Association, as of Thursday, 185 FDNY men and women have died from World Trade Center-related illnesses from the chemical exposure they suffered. The most recent was Firefighter Daniel C. Bove with Engine Company 251 on Monday.

“It’s something that you don’t realize until you have to do something like this,” Price said about the humbling realization of how many have been lost.

The Fallen Heroes Tree is the Price family’s vigil to honor and remember those that served others to the very end. He also honors firefighters by participating in 9/11 memorial stair climbs, in which participants pay tribute by climbing or walking the equivalent of the 110 stories of the World Trade Center towers.

Price is a captain in the fire department at Naval Station Norfolk with more than three decades of firefighting experience. It’s important to him that this sense of responsibility is passed on to his children, Keegan, 9, and Gavin, 6, especially around the holidays.

“I’m glad the boys are involved, and that they know who these people are and why we memorialize them,” he said.

The families of each name on their memorial are going through their most difficult winter ever, he said, in a year of firsts without their loved ones.

“This shows what these families are going through,” he said. “Anybody can come and see and understand it.”

The Price family frequently has visitors who come by to see the tree. Many first responders will come to find the name of someone from their departments. This will continue to be a solemn spot until the tree comes down on Jan. 1.

“We made the tree for people to remember, reflect and respect,” Price said. “Remember the people that we lost this year. Reflect on the job that they did to protect us, and give them the respect they should have.

“This shows what could happen to them on a daily basis. All these guys went to work and didn’t come home.”

Search for “2018 Fallen Heroes Tree” on Facebook for more information.