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9/11 commemoration centers on first responders

9/11 commemoration centers on first responders
September 14
00:00 2017

First responders were hailed as heroes on Sept. 11, 2001, as many died trying to save others when the World Trade Center collapsed after a deadly terrorist attack. Commemorations of that day normally honor them.

The city of Winston-Salem, during at least one of its committee meetings, held a moment of silence on Monday, Sept. 11, commemorating that day. On Saturday, Sept. 9, JROTC cadets were once again brought together with first responders for the city’s 9/11 Public Safety Challenge at the Fairgrounds Annex.

After a wreath laying, the ringing of the bell, the playing of taps and remarks from Mayor Pro Tempore Vivian Burke, the challenge began.

The challenge gives JROTC cadets a chance to interact with firefighters and police officers in hopes that’ll encourage them to pursue careers in those fields.

In recent years, the perception of law enforcement, particularly among younger people, has become mixed as controversial incidents involving police behavior have gone viral. In remarks before the challenge began, County Commissioner Chair Dave Plyler said that with the negative attention law enforcement sometimes gets nationally, it’s important to remember that they’re among those putting themselves in harm’s way to help others during disasters like Hurricane Irma and in their regular duties.

“Today is a very special day to honor those who look after all of us,” he said.

All 10 JROTC programs in county high schools competed in the challenge. It featured marksmanship, close order drills and a timed raider course similar to what firefighters and police train on. The raider course consisted of running up and down stairs with firegear, doing push ups, running while carrying two 20-pound bags and rolling with a 100-pound bag.

Sgt. Greg Dorn and Cpl. Sammy Langdon of the Winston-Salem Police Department (WSPD) Training Division manned the course. They’ve recently seen smaller training classes as applicants for law enforcement careers have declined nationwide. But they said there’s an uptick in the upcoming Basic Law Enforcement Training class, which is already more than twice the size of the last one that graduated 14 cadets this month.

“I think that speaks to America’s desire to go out there and contribute,” said Langdon.

Dorn said that he believed the local perception of the police is still a mostly a positive one.

“We don’t see a lot of what we see nationally in Winston,” he said. “We’ve got great community relations.”

Carver High School junior Norihya Hairston competed in the raider course, which she said she enjoyed.

“It tests your strength and sees where you’re at and what you need to work on,” she said.

She wants to be a military police or JAG (Judge Advocate General) officer. She said she’s watched a lot of law enforcement dramas on television and is drawn to the profession. She said her peers have been supportive of her goal and she liked that Saturday’s challenge let her learn more about police officers.

Glenn High School junior Rachel Otey led her team in the drill competition, in which they were inspected and quizzed by WSPD officers. She said she already knew police officers were “cool” because her neighbor is an officer, but the challenge gave others a chance to see that, too.

“You hear everything on the news about police brutality, and if you meet police officers in person, they’re different, they’re good people,” said Otey, who plans to be a doctor or nurse in the Army.

Sgt. Verron Chue of the WSPD Recruiting Unit said that military veterans can be a great source of recruits for police, especially with a new incentive for military service that recently went into effect for the WSPD.

Reagan High School was the overall winner in the safety challenge. First place schools in the individual competitions were Mount Tabor for marksmanship, Atkins for drills and West Forsyth for the raider course.

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Todd Luck

Todd Luck

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