Emergency personnel reflect on 9/11
By By Janet Little Cooper
The attacks made against the United Sates on Sept. 11. 2001 heightened the sense that emergency personnel needed more training against possible terrorist incidents.
The daily life of firefighters, police officers and EMT's would change nation-wide due to new legislations and additional training requirements made necessary in an effort to combat terror.
Local emergency personnel would be no different as they each were involved in various disaster training drills and classes right here in Atmore.
Numerous emergency agencies participated in a mock disaster drill on Nov. 30, 2005 in the soccer field of the Atmore Area YMCA to prepare each agency in the event of an actual emergency.
A multiple vehicle accident was simulated with a chemical injury involving many injuries and fatalities.
Participating agencies were the Atmore Fire and Rescue Department, Atmore Police Department, Atmore Department of Public Safety, Atmore Utilities Board, Atmore Community Hospital, Atmore Ambulance, Kelley's Ambulance, Poarch Volunteer Fire Department, E-911, Escambia County EMA, and Escambia County Health Department.
Not only would the events of Sept. 11 change the way they do their job, but it also changed them as individuals and how they feel about serving others.
Louis English a 21-year veteran of the Atmore Fire Department was at work on the morning of Sept. 11, 2001. He remembers seeing the first report on the station's television.
"It was close to the end of my shift," English said. "I was in disbelief. When I got home, I turned on the television. I thought that maybe it was a movie, then I saw that it was on all the channels and then I saw the second plane hit the World Trade Center."
English was still in a state of disbelief as the terrorists' plot unfolded before his eyes. He called the fire station to see if it was really happening.
"I just couldn't believe it," English said. "I even called the fire station to ask if it was real. My world was turned upside down. I had an eerie feeling to say the least as I watched the coverage. Then when I heard about the firemen and emergency personnel who were being trapped as they tried to rescue people I just got a devastating feeling. With me being a fireman, that day will probably stay with me forever. I know it has me and a lot of others."
English feels like people have taken more interest in his field of work since that day.
"We are here to serve and protect," English said. "That is our goal to protect others and I think more people realize that and respect our job after the loss of so many firemen in New York. They were doing their job – to serve and protect."
Atmore police officer Scott Walden was working at the Baldwin County Correction Center on Sept. 11, 2001. He was monitoring the news channels when he heard of the attacks.
"I happened to actually see it happen on the news when the second plane crashed," Walden said. "It made me realize how quick your life can go when helping others and I think that people should appreciate that more. It gave me more incentive to work in law enforcement and has caused me to be more cautious on certain types of calls."
Walden who has been with the Atmore Police Department for five years has been actively involved in training such as being prepared for a chemical spill due to all the various forms of transportation available to Atmore like the railroad services.
"It hurts to think about people losing their life in that way," Atmore firefighter Daniel White said. "It is hard to believe that something as horrible as 9/11 could happen in this world, but it did. I don't think we will ever forget that day. I wasn't a firefighter at the time, but had applied. I had wanted to be a fireman ever since I was five years old. That day didn't change my mind. It was kind of scary that day, but there is always a little element of fear in this job, even if it is just a house fire, but it comes with the job.