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MARATHON FIRST RESPONDERS SPEAK OF PASSION FOR PROTECTING COMMUNITY

They’re the first ones on the scene of an accident on U.S. 1. They’re the first ones to arrive when things go wrong. 

On water and land, the Florida Keys’ first responders are at the top of their game when called upon to assist members of the public in a time of need. 

The job of a first responder can bring long hours and periods in the intense heat. They deal with people who are stressed or at their worst moment. A first responder’s job also carries the unknown over what kind of call will come in and when. 

This Saturday, Sept. 11, marks the 20th anniversary of the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center in New York City. More than 400 first responders lost their lives that morning, and thousands more who responded to the incident continue to struggle with the mental and physical wounds. 

This week, we honor their memory and show our appreciation to our local responders who serve the Keys communities. There are many things that make the Florida Keys a special place to live — a community of dedicated first responders being one of them. 

Monroe County Sheriff Rick Ramsay
Sheriff Rick Ramsay, elected in 2012, is the most decorated deputy in the history of the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office, receiving 93 commendations of merit. On Sept. 5, he attended the American Legion Post 154 ceremony to honor veterans and took a moment to share his thoughts about being a first responder.

Age: 55.
Hometown: I grew up in Long Island.
Currently residing: Marathon
Department: Monroe County Sheriff’s Office
Position/rank: Sheriff
Years of service: 34

What led you to choose being a deputy/officer/EMT/firefighter? 
I always wanted to be a police officer or fly helicopters for the army since I was a kid.

What’s the best part of your job?
Helping people. Last week, there was a lady on the side of the road with a blown tire. So, as hot as it was, I jacked up her car and put on a spare tire so she could save money on towing. It’s a small thing that can really make a difference in people’s lives.

Where were you on 9/11?
I was a captain in the main jail in Key West sitting at a desk when the first craft hit the tower. I thought it was an accident. Then we figured out what was happening. 

FWC Lieutenant Dodd Bulger
Florida Fish and Wildlife Lieutenant Dodd Bulger also attended the American Legion Post 154 veterans ceremony. He achieved his dream to be a first responder later in life and feels proud to ensure that boaters enjoy the water safely while protecting our resources.

Age: 53
Hometown: Okeechobee, Florida 
Currently residing: Sugarloaf
Department: Florida Fish and Wildlife
Position/rank: Lieutenant
Years of service:  13

What led you to choose being a deputy/officer/EMT/firefighter? 
It’s a dream I’d always had. My grandfather in Okeechobee was a deputy in the sheriff’s department. So I was on reserve for the sheriff’s department in Okeechobee. But I got married and the dream got delayed a little.

What’s the best part of your job?
It’s the best job in the world. I get to go on a boat and ensure everybody enjoys themselves every day while doing it safely and protecting our resources.

Where were you on 9/11?
I was 33 years old in Howell, Michigan, drinking coffee at my job as a systems engineer. I turned on the news after the first plane hit. I thought, “This can’t be happening.”

Marathon Fire Rescue Chief John Johnson

Age: 62.
Hometown: Camden, New Jersey
Currently residing: Marathon.
Department: Marathon Fire Rescue.
Position/rank: Chief.
Years of service: 42 years, and this is my fourth department.

What led you to choose being a deputy/officer/EMT/firefighter? 
Wanting to help people. I went to college for photography in Pittsburgh, but then I joined the volunteer department in New Jersey and got involved up there. I wanted to be part of the community.

What’s the best part of your job?
We’re a big family. Any fire station around the world will take you right in.

Where were you on 9/11?
I was working for Boca Raton as a firefighter. I was sitting in an insurance meeting, and they were telling us our rates were going up (laughs). We saw it on the news. I was a member of Florida Task Force 2, got called for deployment for the Towers, and waited in Miami. I never got deployed. A lot of people that I know who went got sick with respiratory and mental issues.

Marathon Fire Rescue Lieutenant Shana J. Rogers

Age: 53.
Hometown: Miami.
Currently residing: Miami.
Department: Marathon Fire Rescue.
Position/rank: Lieutenant.
Years of service: 16-1/2.

What led you to choose being a deputy/officer/EMT/firefighter?
Helping people is a theme of my whole life as far as I can remember. As a young person traveling with my father there was a terrible accident on the road. We pulled over and I tried my best to see if everybody was okay. 

What’s the best part of your job?
We’re a unique culture of individuals who are here for the same reason. It’s a second family. And you never know what’ll happen next, from the moment you get here to the moment you leave. 

Where were you on 9/11?
I was home in Miami. I had graduated college and was working in telecommunications sales. As horrific as it was, I’ve become more deeply connected to 9/11, to the firefighters who did the same thing we do and lost their lives doing what they love.

Marathon firefighter/paramedic Ryan Mesh

Age: 30.
Hometown: Miami.
Currently residing: Miami.
Department: Marathon Fire Rescue.
Position/rank: Firefighter/paramedic.
Years of service: 5 years.

What led you to choose being a deputy/officer/EMT/firefighter? 
A friend whose father was a firefighter put the idea in my bread. After school, I would walk around the local fire station. I once called 9-1-1 for my grandmother. Seeing how they helped her made me want to pursue that.

What’s the best part of your job?
Helping others in need and providing that safety to people.

Where were you on 9/11?
I was in fifth grade in elementary school. A neighboring teacher came into our room and said a plane flew into the building. Then we watched the live feed. The teacher turned off the TV immediately when she realized what was happening.

Marathon Fire Rescue firefighter/paramedic Denis Austin Timothy

Age: 24.
Hometown: Spring Hill, Florida
Currently residing: Key Largo
Department: Marathon Fire Rescue
Position/rank:  firefighter/paramedic
Years of service: Five years next month.

What led you to choose being a deputy/officer/EMT/firefighter? 
During EMT school on ride-alongs it opened my eyes to what this career would entail — the amount of good you can do for somebody, whether it’s an old lady who has fallen down or someone who needs to talk to someone. Next, you have a car accident. No day is the same.

What’s the best part of your job?
The gratification when you know you helped someone’s life. 

Where were you on 9/11?
In daycare — I was about 4 years old. I was first aware of 9/11 when I was 6 and I saw people holding signs in protest of our involvement in Iraq. I asked my mom what the signs were.

Marathon Fire Rescue firefighter/paramedic Chris Ryan Cameron

Age: 36.
Hometown: Marathon
Currently residing: Marathon
Department: Marathon Fire Rescue
Position/rank: Firefighter/paramedic
Years of service: 12

What led you to choose being a deputy/officer/EMT/firefighter? 
My grandfather and father were both firefighters. I was an assistant manager in Home Depot and it wasn’t fulfilling. I volunteered and got certifications and I felt fulfilled. I was born and raised here, and it’s good you can be there for people you know. 

What’s the best part of your job?
The confidence it’s given me. I’m a father of two boys. No matter what, I can take care of my loved ones.

Where were you on 9/11?
I was going to college. I was walking to the bathroom when the second plane hit. My brother and I watched it on TV. Knowing my father was a firefighter was pretty impactful.

Marathon Fire Rescue Driver/Engineer Edwin Marquez

Age: 40
Hometown: Miami
Currently residing: Miami
Department: Marathon Fire Rescue
Position/rank: Driver/Engineer
Years of service: 16

What led you to choose being a deputy/officer/EMT/firefighter? 
Friends — motivation from them. They work for this department and inspired me to go to EMT school. 

What’s the best part of your job?
Helping people and the camaraderie. It’s definitely my extended family. And the adrenaline rush.

Where were you on 9/11?
I was at Miami-Dade College. English class started at 9 a.m.. The instructor came in and said a plane hit the World Trade Center. We turned on the TV and saw the second plane hit. I was 21 years old four days later. That day was such a weird day. My generation never experienced anything like that.

Florida Fish and Wildlife officers Jason Richards (left) and Jeremy Foell (right) are tasked with protecting marine resources around the Dry Tortugas. 

“The Tortugas patrols can take us hundreds of miles offshore of Key West,” said Foell, adding they have stopped boats of all sizes including 12-foot skiffs and more recently a 475-foot freighter anchored in a coral protection zone.

Foell graduated from Marathon High School where the father of one of his buddies, Pat Langley, worked as a marine resource officer who he credits as his inspiration to seek a career with FWC. He was attending Stanley Switlik Elementary on 9/11 and vividly remembers the teachers being instructed to turn off all the TVs so as to not upset the young children.  

Richards hails from Brooksville, Florida. The son of a firefighter, he watched the second tower collapse during high school math class.

Twelve years ago he was working as a park ranger at Long Key State Park when FWC officer Bob Dube encouraged him to apply for the state agency. 

Today, both officers share the same motivation for their work. 

“I want my 12-year-old daughter to be able to enjoy our natural resources,” said Richards, who is married to a nurse at Fishermen’s Community Hospital. Foell and his wife, a native Key Wester, have a year-old son.

The post MARATHON FIRST RESPONDERS SPEAK OF PASSION FOR PROTECTING COMMUNITY appeared first on Florida Keys Weekly Newspapers.

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