The East Ridge Optimist Club held its Annual 9-11 Luncheon for city employees, Wednesday at the Community Center.
Carolyn Tucker, the Lt. Governor of the Gateway District, which includes Tennessee and Georgia, said the luncheon is a way for the organization to show appreciation for all the folks who serve the community of East Ridge.
As is tradition, the East Ridge Police Department and East Ridge Fire Department use the occasion to present its “Police Officer of the Year” and “Firefighter of the Year” awards.
This year Cpl. Hal Duncan was recognized by the ERPD as Officer of the Year, and Brandon Clark by the ERFD as the Firefighter of the Year.
Acting Chief of Police Stan Allen told those gathered that Duncan is a 32-year veteran of the department, most of those years spent in patrol. For the last three years, Duncan has served as the School Resource Officer for East Ridge Middle School, a job that Chief Allen said “almost no one wanted.”
“Hal has adopted the school and the school has adopted him” Chief Allen said by way of presenting the award. “He loves the kids and has become a mentor to them.”
This summer on his own time, Duncan pressure washed and painted a large portion of the rear exterior of the school.
Chief Williams said that Clark’s tenure with the department as a firefighter/engineer has been short, only three years. During those three years Clark has become “an outstanding team player, a go-getter and a mentor to younger firefighters.”
Daniel Stephenson, the master of ceremonies and a Lieutenant with the ERPD, addressed those breaking bread, saying that the luncheon is a way “to remember the sacrifices of the first responders during 9/11.”
“It’s a small way to show gratitude for those who’ve committed their lives to serve others,” he said.
A special award was presented by the Optimist’s to their own Harry Mackey. Mackey, who has tirelessly prepared meals for the club, including this luncheon, was caught unawares.
“I was over in the corner trying to hide,” he said has he shook hands with Stephenson while accepting the award.
Chief Williams reminded those gathered of the great sacrifice that the first responders of New York City made on that infamous day when commercial jet liners crashed into the Twin Towers.
He said that everyone remembers some of the grim statistics, such as 343 firefighters killed on September 11. He reminded everyone of a more obscure statistic: In the ensuing 18 years, more than 10,000 New York area first responders have succumbed to various cancers and respiratory ailments as a result of their service on that day.
He said the 9-11 event was “the largest terrorist attack ever on our nation.”
“It was also the largest rescue of any by first responders across this nation. Let us never forget.”