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Wild Bald Eagle Makes Surprise Appearance During 9/11 Memorial Ceremony

"Isn't that unbelievable?"

On Tuesday, first responders from the Andover Fire Department gathered on an overpass in Minnesota for a ceremony paying tribute to those who lost their lives on September 11, 2001.

But they were not the only ones in attendance.

Facebook/Andover Fire Department, MN

In the middle of the firefighters' memorial display, a wild bald eagle unexpectedly dropped by — perching majestically atop an extended fire truck ladder. As the national bird of the United States, emblematic of freedom and national pride, the eagle's appearance couldn't have been more fitting.

The significance of that special visit wasn't lost on Fire Chief Jerry Streich. He captured the moment on video:

While bald eagles are easily one of America's most enduring symbols, as a species, they are in many ways a poster child for the importance of wildlife conservation as well.

From an estimated population of 500,000 bald eagles in North America during the 18th century, man-made threats (like from the once widely-used pesticide DDT) had reduced their numbers to only 412 breeding pairs by the 1950s. Thanks to regulations aimed at protecting the species, bald eagles began making a remarkable comeback — reaching a population of over 100,000 by the 1990s.

Today, bald eagles can be found throughout North America, where sighting them in the wild still holds the power to amaze and inspire.