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Wise remembers: County honors first responders

By David Talley | Published Wednesday, September 13, 2017
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To Help People

“TO HELP PEOPLE” – Decatur Fire Department Honor Guard members Chris Mercer, Joe Boyd and James Carr prepare to post the colors at a Sept. 11 ceremony Monday honoring first responders at the Wise County Veterans Memorial Park. Messenger photo by Joe Duty

Wise County citizens, officials and first responders gathered at the Wise County Veterans Memorial Park Monday for a Patriot Day ceremony.

The work of local firefighters, police officers and medics was honored, as were those who lost their lives 16 years ago in the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

Wise County Messenger Publisher Roy Eaton told the crowd it’s been his privilege to cover the county’s first responders for 44 years. Eaton also reflected on the bravery of first responders in New York who were killed attempting to save others on 9/11.

“It was to be the worst enemy attack on America since Pearl Harbor in 1941,” Eaton said, “Two thousand, nine hundred ninety-seven persons were killed, many of them firefighters and police officers who rushed to the scene.

“As television news scrambled to get the story, it was clear America had been attacked, and thousands of heroes and innocent people had been killed,” he said.

Heartfelt Thanks

HEARTFELT THANKS – Wise County citizens and veterans salute Monday during the ceremony honoring first responders at the Wise County Veterans Memorial Park. Messenger photo by Joe Duty

Two weeks ago first responders from across the country, including Wise County, jumped into action when Hurricane Harvey struck the Texas Gulf Coast. Decatur Fire Chief Mike Richardson, Wise County Medic Brandon Daugherty and Sheriff Lane Akin joined other first responders and citizens from around the state rushing to the region to provide aid.

“All three lived up to the motto you see on the side of every Decatur fire engine,” Eaton said. “To help people.”

The trio shared their experiences at Monday’s ceremony.

Richardson was part of a strike team of fire departments, including crews from Decatur and Paradise, that responded to the destruction. The chief said it’s always been the department’s primary directive to help others.

“That’s helping our neighbors,” Richardson said. “That’s helping our community of Texas.”

Daughterty was part of a strike team that helped evacuate patients from hospitals and nursing homes, and Akin reflected on the definition of a first responder.

“There’s a debt of gratitude there that can’t be repaid,” the sheriff said. “When others run away from danger, the first responders run into danger.”

But Akin stressed first responders aren’t just men and women in uniform. The sheriff traveled to the Gulf Coast with County Attorney James Stainton to assist in the relief efforts after Hurricane Harvey, and he said countless citizen volunteers also stepped in as first responders.

“What we started seeing was absolutely amazing,” he said. “Folks in pickups were coming from everywhere. These weren’t true first responders, those of us in uniform, these were volunteers from all over the state responding. By the end of the day, there had to be 150 to 200 boats in the water.”

Akin said he and Stainton ran into several of the volunteers, including several from Wise and Parker counties, who felt called to volunteer.

“In talking with them, I asked those guys, ‘Why are you here?'” They said, ‘Our boss texted us and said, let’s load up and make a hand.’ That’s all it took for those guys to make the trip from North Texas to the floods in Katy and Houston,” Akin said.

The sheriff said the same attitude was present in those who led the charge to retake the hijacked plane, United Airlines Flight 93, on Sept. 11, 2001. Due to the efforts of the passengers, the plane crashed into an empty field, rather than one of several potential targets in Washington, D.C.

“That’s a public servant heart,” Akin said. “We saw public servants all around Harris County.”

“Today,” he said. “I submit to you there’s a new front group among first responders, and those are citizens who have public servant hearts. Some call them Good Samaritans.

“I call them Texans. I call them first responders.”

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