First responders sense heightened appreciation since 9/11

September 10, 2011|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD |
  • Glenn Fishack, president of the Washington County Volunteer Fire & Rescue Association, said he believes people became more respectful of first responders after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
By Yvette May/Staff Photographer

At age 69, Glenn Fishack still runs with Smithsburg Community Volunteer Fire Co. on emergency calls.

"I love to help people," Fishack said.

The willingness to help those in distress to make a better community is deeply rooted in the mind-set of Washington County's volunteer first responders, said Fishack, president of the Washington County Volunteer Fire & Rescue Association.

"I think they do it because they have pride in their community and pride in helping people," Fishack said.

Volunteer fire companies in Washington County remain a central part of their communities, hosting carnivals and dinners and other activities, to Fishack said.

Since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, Fishack said he noticed a "big change" in how the community treats volunteer responders. He said he believes people became more respectful of first responders since 9/11.

Fishack recalled recently being stopped by a man who thanked him for taking care of his wife, who was in an accident.

"...That makes you feel good," said Fishack, who believes people became more respectful of first responders since the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

According to the Associated Press, 2,977 people died as a result of the attacks at the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, and in the crash of United Airlines Flight 93 in Shanksville, Pa. The figures do not include the 19 hijackers aboard the four airplanes involved.

Fishack said he still makes about 30 to 35 calls a year with Smithsburg volunteers and admits it's hard to lie in bed at night when you want to do what you can to help someone in distress.


Becoming tolerant

Since the attacks 10 years ago, people in the community have become more "tolerant" of law enforcement work that has to be done and are more engaged in reporting suspicious activities, Hagerstown Police Capt. Mark Holtzman said.

Holtzman said he doesn't consider himself to be a hero, but admits it's nice to be a police officer in a relatively small community where one can more readily see the results of trying to make the city a better place to live.

"That's what keeps me here," said Holtzman, who considers himself "one of the lucky ones," because he truly enjoys his job.

Washington County Sheriff Douglas Mullendore said he notices a difference in how the community interacts with his department around the anniversary of 9/11, but not so much on a daily basis.

Internally, police have become more accepting of the community's vulnerability, Mullendore said.

That sense of vulnerability can be seen at airports, where Mullendore suspects Americans would not have allowed themselves to be subjected to security screening before 9/11.

Service to others

Like Mullendore, Washington County Department of Emergency Services Emergency Planner Sam Anderson said his father, a firefighter in Wisconsin, would never say he was a hero. But in Anderson's eyes, first responders like his dad are simply that.

"I thought I'd serve the community in another way," said Anderson, who moved to Hagerstown in January to begin his emergency planning job after graduating from college.

Kevin Barnes, volunteer chief of Rescue Hose Co. No. 1 in Greencastle, Pa., said the heightened level of public appreciation received from people immediately after the terrorist attacks has faded somewhat, but he added people remain gracious and thankful for their service.

"I don't know that it is as public as it was," Barnes said.

Donald Scheuch, chief of EMS staff at the Berkeley County Emergency Ambulance Authority, said the outpouring of goodwill from the public continued for several months after Sept. 11, 2001, and has been resurgent with the approaching 10th anniversary.

"Buying a cup of coffee for our paramedics and EMTs means a lot to them," Scheuch said of appreciative gestures received from the public.

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