Being first to respond to an emergency is not an easy job.
Pulling someone from a fire or saving them from some other emergency can be “overwhelming,” admits Neal Austin, Columbus Fire and Rescue operations chief. But it”s also rewarding.
Austin started working at Columbus Fire and Rescue 19 years ago, as a firefighter.
He learned quickly that first responders must stop their daily routine and put their own lives at risk anytime a disaster occurs.
“Some guys are on for 24 hours and off for 48 hours. They are building houses or cutting grass and they have to respond. It”s what they signed up for,” he said.
Other times, they could respond to an emergency involving a family or friend.
“The most memorable event I had at the fire department was responding to my own family,” Austin said. “My wife and kids were in a car accident, and I was the first truck on the scene. It was nerve-racking.”
While it may be a tough job, it”s not a thankless one.
On Friday, Austin and other first responders will be recognized at the Salute to Lowndes County”s Finest event, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Trotter Convention Center.
The event, hosted by the Salute to Lowndes County”s Finest Committee, is a tribute to first responders throughout the county and recognition of the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks.
Austin said he has met responders at schools and events who responded to the attacks, but they rarely want to talk about the experience.
“It”s one of those deals that they just hide back and really not talk about it a whole lot,” Austin said.
The event, which is open only to emergency-response agencies throughout Columbus and Lowndes County, includes a barbecue lunch with a program beginning at noon. First responders who attend can win door prizes.
First Responders Day at courthouse
Another event honoring Lowndes County first responders will take place simultaneously in front of the Lowndes County Courthouse.
The Lowndes County Board of Supervisors and the Shuk-ho-ta Tom-a-ha chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution have teamed up to host First Responders Day on Friday beginning at 11:30 a.m.
A 30-minute ceremony will take place honoring first responders throughout the county, and refreshments will follow. The event is open to the public.
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