ALGONQUIN – Sirens blared Tuesday in the parking lot at St. John's Lutheran School in Algonquin.
In the back of an Algonquin-Lake in the Hills Fire Protection District ambulance, nine kindergartners sat and listened to Battalion Chief John Greene explain the titles of "paramedic" and "firefighter."
"To me, it's neat," Greene said of doing community events. "It kind of rejuvenates your interest in the fire service."
St. John's Lutheran School Principal Roger Kirsch said the school was hosting about 20 first responders so students could show their appreciation for them and learn about their jobs.
"It's a celebration of who these people are and what they do for us," Kirsch said.
About 70 students from preschoolers to eighth-graders went outside to see the squad cars, armored Humvee, fire engine and ambulance brought by officials from the McHenry County Sheriff's Office, Algonquin Police Department, Lake in the Hills Police Department and Algonquin-Lake in the Hills Fire Protection District.
Seventh-graders Mac Barry and Nathanael Salazar, both of Algonquin, said it was the first time they had sat in an ambulance. The students learned about the tools kept in the vehicle and how firefighters prepare for emergencies.
"They're giving up all of their time and most of their life to help us," Mac said. "... A lot of them give their lives for us."
Mac and Nathanael said all of the students had made "thank-you" cards to give the first responders after lunch.
"It's nice that we get recognized," firefighter/EMT David Kimpel said. "Not that we need it, but it's nice that they show us [their appreciation] when we come to do stuff like this. It makes us feel wanted.”
McHenry County Deputy Sheriff Carolin Skrypek brought the department's armored Humvee, which is mainly used by the SWAT team.
Interacting with the students shows them that police aren't always the "bad guys" who are writing tickets, Skrypek said.
"We’re not people to run away from," Skrypek said. "We want them to run to us, rather than run away from us.”