Fortunately, there are highly trained, dedicated, talented, intelligent, determined, knowledgeable, and generous men and women like those you see here. They all responded to what could have been an HUGE disaster. But for their immediate action, a major fire of hazardous material could have resulted in a mass evacuation being ordered.
As someone who lives only two miles from this potential disaster, I thank the men and women of the fire fighting, police, emergency management, medical, hazmat and civil service professions who came to our aid in Mt. Airy, MD on August 2, 2011.
You are in my prayers and volunteer activity every day.
Here is another emergency exercise with some good lessons: Emergency Exercise
The gent in the green shirt is the Mayor of Mt. Airy, Pat Rockinberg. He called me on my way home from work to say, "You have to get over here. We have a major fire in Twin Arch. They've pulled over 40 pieces of equipment, a helicopter is flying over, and they think it's a hazmat situation where they may have to evaluate hundreds of homes. I'll tell the Trooper to let you through the security perimeter."
"I'm picking up "Eamon (my youngest son in the black football jersey, above) from his Peabody Conservatory violin music chamber camp. I'll be over after I get him. You need anything."
"Just something to drink and some gum. It's hot as hell out here."
"OK. I'll be right over."
Although I saw no signs of smoke on the drive over, when I arrived there was plenty of activity...but the fire was contained, thank God. It could have spread quickly had not the professional and volunteer fire fighters and emergency personnel you see above taken control of the disaster so quickly.
The first picture you see of the exhausted fire fighters on the curb is the reason this disaster was averted.
My father's cousin was a firefighter in South Philadelphia. His company once responded to a refinery fire in South Philadelphia. Unfortunately, my father's cousin and five other fire fighters perished that night.
So many of these events can go either way based on any number of factors. That these men and women continue to fight for us each day, as they did on September 11, 2001, is a testament to their grace, fortitude, training, intelligence, skill, knowledge, grit, and team work.