Brad Byrd In-Depth: Ceremony to Honor First Responders

A special ceremony is scheduled in Evansville on Wednesday to honor local first responders.

Speakers will include Evansville Mayor Lloyd Winnecke, former Congressman Brad Ellsworth, and NYPD Deputy Chief Theresa Tobin.

This comes as the Vanderburgh County Public Safety Foundation is being launched.

Brad Byrd talks with Vanderburgh County Prosecutor Nick Hermann and Evansville Police Officer Chuck Knoll about Wednesday's ceremony and how being a first responder has changed over the years.

Brad Byrd: "A special ceremony tomorrow in Evansville. It will honor all local first responders who serve the community. This comes as the Vanderburgh County Public Safety Foundation is being launched. Mayor Lloyd Winnecke will be speaking along with a guest speaker, NYPD Deputy Chief Theresa Tobin who served in New York on 9/11. I'm joined now by Vanderburgh County Prosecutor Nick Hermann and Evansville Police Officer Chuck Knoll. And gentlemen, thank you very much for joining us tonight. When we think about first responders, that can be many things to many people. But would it be safe to say 9/11 is how we change how we perceive first responders since that awful day?"

Nick Hermann: "I think it has. And I think it's important for people to remember 9/11. I think we have a generation of people coming up who weren't old enough to remember that or don't have a lot of vivid memories. So, I think it's important to have celebrations like this to recognize our first responders and to talk about what they have to do on a daily basis. I hope we don't have something like 9/11 happen in Evansville. But if we did, it would be our police and our fire running in there."

Brad Byrd: "And I notice we see people there running away from the towers. And Chuck, we were talking about this is the police, the firefighters, the personnel who are running towards the danger. With that being said, why did you want to become a police officer? And it's kind of redefined right in the middle of your career as a police officer."

Officer Chuck Knoll: "Yes, the reason I became a police officer, I have a candid answer, I want to help people. But I had a situation in my life that occurred with my father. 30 years ago prior to me becoming a police officer, mom and dad were out shopping at Christmas time, and dad had a heart attack. And he went down, and he had passed. Fortunately in the store, there was an EMT off duty and a citizen that revived my father and kept him going and they were able to get him to the hospital and he lived another 30 years because of those two. And the gratitude that I held inside of me was a big factor that steered me towards public safety."

Brad Byrd: "And speaking of public safety, this conglomeration of responders, we're talking about dispatchers, firefighters, law enforcement, even the court system which you're part of, Nick. With that being said, the pure definition of a first responder has changed over the last 20 years when we think about all the different types of scenarios that a law enforcement officer, EMT, or a firefighter walk into, it's a situation that is so unpredictable."

Nick Hermann: "It is. It's unpredictable, and there are a lot of dangers out there obviously personal safety for the police and fire. But also we wen through a series of meth labs and meth labs explosions a few years ago. Now, I think the biggest threat for our law enforcement officials is fentanyl and them possibly coming in contact with a fatal dose of fentanyl. So, the job does change on a daily or weekly basis. It's something you got to stay up on, and it's something you don't have an option to not be trained and not know about."

Brad Byrd: "And police officers are in some ways at the spur of the moment, Chuck, doctors saving someone's life with Narcan."

Officer Chuck Knoll: "Yes, it's an every changing world out there in the drug world. And right now with the epidemic of heroin and fentanyl, we've been asked by our superiors to help because we are there much faster than emergency medical technicians. And we've been trained to use Narcan and save these overdoses, and it's working really well. It's just too bad that people have to use that drug. It's powerful and addictive. There's no control over the quality. And with officers out there carrying one or two doses now of Narcan, it gives us the ability to save people where they wouldn't be before."

Brad Byrd: "And considering the variety of scenarios you face, let's talk about this new foundation that's being launched. What do you hope to accomplish with this? Is this going to be like a network of exchanging ideas? I know there is scholarship money here. We'll get into that. But what will this foundation be? Will this bring first responders together and perhaps change perception in the public eye?"

Officer Chuck Knoll: "Initially back after 9/11, citizens and public safety came together. It was unity. We had a goal against terrorism, and we've lost some of that. And frankly, I'm hoping this foundation can bring together the public and public safety again where we can rejuvenate that kinship we had after 9/11. And I've very excited about this and enthusiastic about this that we're on the right track getting everyone involved in public safety."

Brad Byrd: "And I know this ceremony tomorrow will be on the public steps of the ironically a memorial that honors the military. But in the case of 9/11, the first response to that was civilians in the form of police officers and firefighters. With that said, Nick, these first responders have families too. And just like Chuck said, his father was saved and lived a much longer life because of that. How will this help families of first responders?"

Nick Hermann: "Well, I think it's important to show support. It's important to show support for our first responders, and it's also important to have a mix between the public and the public safety officials. Now, usually when you come in contact with a public safety officials, it's because something horrible has happened in your life. I would encourage people to come out and bring their families to interact with the public safety officials and to hear Theresa Tobin speak and to be apart of the festivities. I'd think it be a great event to bring the public out. And like Chuck said, bring the public together with public safety."

Brad Byrd: "And Theresa Tobin, she was injured to give you some idea. She was injured pretty badly, but she ended up saving dozens of lives in New York."

Officer Chuck Knoll: "After the south tower came down, she was severly injured yet managed to save over 100 people in an apartment complex that was right next to ground zero."

Brad Byrd: "And when you think of a deputy police chief in the Big Apple, you think about a tough, gritty individual whether they be male or female. You tell me she's an everyday people."

Officer Chuck Knoll: "Oh, she's a wonderful person, down to Earth, easy to speak with. I kind now my career went towards New York. I would have loved to work for her. She's incredible."

Brad Byrd: "The scholarship money, who wants to address that? Go ahead, Chuck."

Officer Chuck Knoll: "One thing that has come out of this is sponsorship from not only individuals but corporate sponsorship that is directing towards public safety. It's for college expenses, and we're looking for next year to give 30 scholarships away to public safety. So, it's a lofty goal. We're not there yet, but I think with a little effort we can attain it."

Brad Byrd: "This is a lot more than giving you the keys to the fire truck, or the police cruiser, or the ambulance. There is so much more to this. I'll just end this to outline and you know a tragedy in central Indiana, a first responder. It was in the form of a police responder who was trying to help someone. A car had overturned, he popped the door, and an individual allegedly fired shots and killed that police officer. So, it is a very dangerous world we live in, and we hope this foundation will change the perceptions that people have."

(This story was originally published on August 22, 2017)

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