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End of the watch: Town pays tribute to emergency services personnel

By LISA WHALEY

A crowd gathers downtown to pay tribute.
A crowd gathers downtown to pay tribute.

Men, women and children gathered at the downtown courthouse Friday night for Jonesborough’s first ever “Tribute to Area Emergency Responders,” an event Alderman David Sell predicts will be just the beginning.
“We hope we can do this every year to show our support,” Sell told audience. “We want to remember those who once served and those who continue to serve.”
The tribute, the brain child of organizer Ruth Verhegge, was created as a way to draw attention and give thanks to the men and women whose role in emergency services makes such a difference in the region.
Emergency responders in the fields of public safety, police, fire, dispatch and emergency medical services from Jonesborough, Johnson City, East Tennessee State University and Washington County were included.
“These men and women don’t choose the profession for the money. . . for the glitz or the glamor,” Sell said.
Instead, he said, they choose to serve.
“We hope you realize just how important you are to us,” Sell said. “We’ll never forget you.”
Jonesborough Director of Public Safety and Operations Manager Craig Ford echoed those words as he stepped up to the podium.
“John 15:13 says ‘Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends,’ ” Ford said. “We are here this evening for those who sacrifice their all for us.”
The dangers are not just in the field, Craig said. Suicide, divorce and various health issues are just a few of the areas emergency responders fall into a high-risk bracket.
The job is difficult, and it takes its toll, Ford said.
“They miss birthdays of their sons and daughters,” he said. “They miss anniversaries, and they miss holidays.”
But these men and women wouldn’t have it any other way. “Somone has to answer that call.”
“They are constantly standing at the ready,” Ford continued. And their overriding goal is to protect.
Men and women who served as emergency responders and who have since passed away, were featured on a table at the base of the courthouse.
As the name of each officer, deputy, dispatcher, firefighter and EMT was read, along with the date of their “end of watch,” a bell chimed.
Family members or fellow emergency responders moved forward in response to light a candle in tribute to their fallen soldier.
Bagpipe music and a rendition of Taps concluded the tribute, but organizers said they hope taking time to say thanks to emergency responders will become a new tradition in Jonesborough.