APPLETON, Wis. (WBAY) - The support for fallen Appleton firefighter Mitchell Lundgaard was clearly evident along the streets of downtown Appleton Thursday.
Hundreds lined the procession route in Appleton for firefighter Mitchell Lundgaard, including Valders paramedic Isaac Nadler (saluting), who's training to be a firefighter (WBAY photo)
Hundreds of people joined police and fire personnel to mark the return of Lundgaard's body. They came to watch the procession. Lines stretched for at least two blocks.
Lundgaard's death caught the Appleton community by surprise. People told us they came to pay their respects and let Lundgaard's family know they are not mourning alone.
"I'm at a loss for words for the situation, and I wouldn't want anyone else to go through this," Rob Hoffmann said.
Shocked, sad and afraid are how people described their feelings after hearing about the firefighter's death.
"They're first responders. They're here to protect us, and they're the ones that lose their lives because of people out there. It's so sad," Sarah Brown said.
As different agencies -- fire, rescue, law enforcement -- drove down College Avenue, people were respectfully standing still and trying to capture the moment, some with their hands on their hearts.
"Knowing that there's people out there that need help and feel the need to do what they did, it makes you want to be able to just change the world," Darsity Berling said.
"We hope that it never happens again, and we continue to train ourselves on situations like this and make sure it doesn't happen again," Isaac Nadler said.
Nadler is a part-time paramedic in the Valders Fire Department and is going to school to become a firefighter.
"We're always trying to stay aware of what's going on around us. You know, things surprise us, but we always try our best to keep our heads up," Nadler said.
But nothing can ever prepare a community for a loss like this one.
"I can't do much about it but... it's just shocking. Like, I'm really at a loss for words," Brown said. "It's so sad. I just want to show my support for Appleton."