Wise remembers; County honors first responders

By By David Talley | Published Monday, Sept. 11, 2017

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Wise County citizens, veterans, officials and first responders gathered at the Wise County Veterans Park Monday to honor local first responders and also to remember those who gave their lives 16 years ago responding to the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

Wise County Messenger President and Publisher Roy Eaton was the event’s main speaker. Eaton told those in attendance he’d been privileged to be a part of covering 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 during the terrorist attacks 16 years ago.

“It was to be worst enemy attack on America since Pearl Harbor in 1941,” Eaton said, “2,997 persons were killed, many of them firefighters and police offices 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.”Two weeks ago, when Hurricane Harvey struck the Texas Gulf Coast, Decatur Fire Chief Mike Richardson, Wise County Medic Brandon Doughty and Sheriff Lane Akin joined other first responders and citizens from around the state rushing to the region to provide aid.
Before introducing the event’s other speakers, Eaton reflected on the fire department’s logo, “To help people,” which is displayed on department vehicles.”All three lived up to the motto you see on the side of every Decatur fire engine,” Eaton said.

Richardson was part of a strike team of fire departments, including crews from Decatur and Paradise, that responded to the destruction. Richardson told the crowd 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.”
Doughty also spoke at the event. Medics from North Texas responded to help evacuate and transport storm victims and others affected by the destruction.
Akin reflected on the definition of a first responder.
“There’s a debt of gratitude there that can’t be repaid,” Akin said. “When others run away from danger, the first responders run into danger.”
First responders sacrificed themselves to save victims in the attacks, with 343 of the 423 killed on Sept. 11, 2001 either responding police officers, firefighters or medics, Akin said.
But Akin stressed that first responders aren’t just men and women in uniform. The sheriff and County Attorney James Stainton aided in Gulf Coast-area relief efforts after Hurricane Harvey wrought havoc in South Texas where Akin said countless volunteers also took on the mantle of first responder.
“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 150-200 boats in the water.”
Akin said he and Stainton ran into several of the volunteers, including several from Wise County and Parker County 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 that 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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