In my 50 years on earth, no day stands out any more in my mind than Sept. 11, 2001.
It was a day that no American should ever forget.
I am sure most people remember where they were when they heard that the towers had been hit.
I was employed at the Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office at the time and was preparing for a meeting to discuss the construction of the new jail.
We had construction trailers that housed our offices as I worked daily during the planning, design, and construction of the new facility.
When we received word that the attack on our country had taken place, we gathered around a television and watched in horror as the events of the day unfolded.
I feel sure that many people gathered around their television sets for the entire day and days to come watching and hoping there would not be another attack.
But many may not know what went on behind the scenes locally while the events unfolded in New York.
Sheriff Roger Garrison called a meeting with the leaders of every public safety agency in Cherokee County. His purpose for the meeting was to seek input from each of them while devising a plan to protect our local citizens.
So while many watched at home and worried, local public safety officers were diligently working to ensure your safety and planning for worst case scenarios.
This would not have been possible without the mutual respect our public safety leaders and personnel have for one another.
We spent the entire day following the orders of our commanders.
Orders were not questioned, they were carried out.
The annual training we had received kicked in and all agencies became one team. Everyone worked together like a well oiled machine.
Could we have stopped a similar attack in Cherokee County? Probably not.
But because of the public safety leadership in our county, we were ready to act and respond to everything from small incidents to catastrophic events.
Although we were a well-trained agency, the events of Sept. 11, 2001 changed many things.
One of the changes was how we trained. Training became more focused on global issues as opposed to just the local crimes we had previously dealt with.
We now have a state-of-the-art Emergency Operations Center led by Robby Westbrook and Renee Cornelison. This unit is a division of the Sheriff’s Office.
Robby and Renee sacrifice many nights and weekends making sure the citizens of Cherokee County are well informed to important events that could affect our lives. 9-1-1 communication officers now train with all local public safety organizations to be able to handle the communications freeing field personnel to do other things in the event of an emergency.
Many times, communications officers perform their duties from the mobile command center in the field during an emergency.
It was a sad day for America and the loss of life was devastating. Cherokee County was blessed that we weren’t affected directly. We were also blessed because public safety personnel worked diligently to protect all of us.
It may very well be the only day I can remember in my lifetime that an event occurred that had absolutely nothing to do with Republicans, Democrats, or any other political party.
This day was about being an American and being proud. It was a day that people prayed for our politicians and leaders that they would keep us safe as opposed to questioning every move they made.
Public safety personnel were heroes at least for a while. But like many things in life, people tend to forget.
So this Sept. 11, please take a moment to remember our soldiers, law enforcement personnel, firefighters, EMS personnel, and 9-1-1 communication officers that continually work around the clock to keep us all safe. For they are all heroes.
When everything we could think of to do was in place and the plans were completed, I remember asking Sheriff Garrison, “What do we do now?” He said to me, “Let’s go get our children and spend some time with them.”
And so we did.
And in my opinion, his suggestion we connect with our children was as important as any decision he made that day.
Chris Collett is a lifelong resident of Cherokee County.