ROCKFORD (WREX) - People across the country stopped today to remember all the lives lost 10 years ago. Here in Rockford local leaders gathered to honor our nation's first responders.

Many of the iconic images of September 11th feature firemen, police officers, and first responders who went above and beyond the call of duty on that tragic day.

10 years later the Winnebago County 9/11 Emergency Responders Memorial honors those who gave the ultimate sacrifice.

This morning's ceremony began with the reading of names including victims, first responders, and local responders.

New York City firefighter Richard Mercado spoke, he's a 13 year veteran who still remembers exactly what he saw when he got to Ground Zero.

"It looked like it was snowing, you know, there's dust and debris flying everywhere. There's paper burning, there's rows and rows of cars burning and guys trying to find each other you're just covered in everything. You're watching the people walk around and they're just covered in dust," said Mercado.

Mercado says coming back to Rockford is special for him and says folks here in Rockford have welcomed him and other firefighters with open arms.

"This is my third time here in Rockford. There's a lot of guys I've met here and we became friends and it's always overwhelming and it's always really nice because the people in Rockford and the people in Illinois are gracious. So it shows that people really do care and they're thinking about you."

Winnebago County 9/11 Emergency Responders Memorial Chairman Will Pederson says September 11th was an important day for every first responder.

"I know that when September 11th happened, I think I can speak for every firefighter and police officer that wanted to just go there and do what ever they could," said Pederson.

Today was also the groundbreaking for Winnebago County's 9/11 Emergency Responders Memorial. Pederson says the memories of the terrorist attacks make getting volunteers to help out easy.

"It's easy to describe what we're trying to do here and people just want to get involved and help. Which makes the planning process and the last seven months easy."

Mercado also said today is a chance to honor everyday heroes like parents and teachers.