lthough Paul Iannizzotto appreciates the thanks he has received from hundreds of Americans in recent weeks, he doesn't consider himself a hero.
"Our job puts us in harm's way," said Iannizzotto, a New York City firefighter. "When you do your job, it doesn't necessarily mean you're a hero."
On. Sept. 11, Iannizzotto led a group of people, including a deputy fire commissioner, out of the wreckage of a World Trade Center tower after it collapsed.
"We're fortunate that we did our job and we're able to come back and do it again," he said.
Iannizzotto said that since then, many people have approached him on the street to thank him for being a firefighter.
Several thousand Mahoning Valley residents expressed their thanks to him and New York firefighter Robert Salvesen on Saturday morning during "The Valley's Tribute to American Heroes: A Red, White and Blue Parade."
The two served as the grand marshals of the parade presented by The Vindicator and WFMJ-TV 21 and sponsored by K-105, Y-103, Hot 101 and The DeBartolo Corp.
Amazed: Both Iannizzotto and Salvesen said they were amazed by the cheers they got.
"A couple of times I got the chills," said Salvesen, a New York City firefighter since 1994. "It was staggering." Salvesen dug through the wreckage of the towers looking for survivors for nearly 72 hours after the attacks.
Iannizzotto, a New York City firefighter for 11 years, added, "I've never seen anything quite like it. The people were absolutely amazing, the support and energy were amazing."
Neither had been to the Mahoning Valley before. Their fire department administration asked them to attend after the parade's presenters called and said they wanted to honor the city's firefighters.
Painting: The men attended a special reception at The DeBartolo Corp. after the parade, where they received a patriotic painting as a show of thanks from local firefighters and the parade presenters.
At the reception, Boardman Fire Chief Jim Dorman praised the New York City Fire Department and Iannizzotto and Salvesen for their valor, heroism and commitment to duty.
"Your fire department's performance of duty made all firefighters across the country proud," he said.
Iannizzotto tearfully accepted the painting, and added, "The outpouring of support we get really goes in here," pointing to his heart.
"These are the kind of things that help us get through it," he said.