GIBSON CITY, Ill., (WCIA) — First responders and community members are looking back at the last two years of emergencies in one Ford County town. On Saturday, they all came together to honor one another and reflect on their quick, lifesaving efforts.

Rain flooded Gibson City two years ago and damaged homes and businesses. That was the beginning of significant events emergency crews would respond to over the next few months. A Fourth of July fire damaged downtown businesses, and it happened again just across the street in May.

All these events changed this small town with a big heart, and people made sure the first responders behind everyone’s safety were honored in a big way.

“I want you to remember three dates that are so very important to this community,” Representative Tom Bennett said.

The first — August 12, 2021.

“The rains came and came and you thought there was somebody named Noah,” Bennett described.

He’s talking about the Gibson City flood.

“When you look at the pictures and you see the water, it brings back some scary memories,” Jeremy Darnell, GCMS Superintendent, said. “It didn’t matter who you were or what your role was in the community. You found a way to try and help your neighbor, your friends, complete strangers.”

GCMS students jumped into action. Athletic teams canceled practices and athletes helped neighbors carry items out of basements.

“It was really cool to teach those kids how to serve your community and serve others,” Mike Allen, the assistant principal and athletic director, said. “They didn’t ask for anything in return. They just did it because it was the right thing to do.”

The second major event — July 4, 2022.

It was the first Downtown Gibson City fire.

“It was big compared to what we’ve had in the past,” Bruce Kallal, the fire chief, said.

He was one of the first on the scene and said it’s an honor to serve the community.

Kallal grew up in Our Town Gibson City and is always thankful for its support, both on the scene and after. Such as events like the “Heart of Illinois Heroes” recognition on Saturday.

“The volunteer system in this town is amazing,” Kallal described. “You can put a group together just through these civic groups and they’ll start making things happen right away.”

The third — May 11, 2023.

Another fire downtown. Kyle Obert was at work around 4:30 a.m. when one of his employees ran in and said she saw smoke coming out of a building. Without hesitating, he jumped in his truck. It happened to be the one with a ladder inside.

Obert was one of the first ones there and helped the people inside while emergency crews were on the way.

“We got two people out on the north side. We went back over on the west side of the building and got 4 people out,” Obert said. “I just wanted to jump in.”

Everyone agrees, that’s what people do in Our Town Gibson City.

“People in small towns wear a lot of hats,” Darnell said. “We have an incredible volunteer fire department and amazing surroundings communities that have volunteer fire departments. They came running.”

Besides just reflecting on those big moments, the community wanted to recognize all of the departments that came out to help. Leaders passed out plaques to each responding group and families enjoyed food and ice cream with each other.