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Remarks at the Dedication of the Memorial Wall for Emergency Personnel, Cleveland, Tennessee
Jim Hall
Dedication of the Memorial Wall for Emergency Personnel, Cleveland, Tennessee

Chairman Jimmy Duncan, Bradley County Executive Gary Davis, Mayor Tom Rowland, Mayor Mabarry, State Representative Chris Newton, distinguished platform guest, ladies and gentlemen. Thank you for inviting me to share in the dedication of this Memorial Wall. We join hands today united by the selfless dedication of the six individuals whose names are etched into this wall in recognition of their service to the citizens of this area.

President Theodore Roosevelt said "It is impossible to win the great prize of life without running risks and the greatest of all prizes are those connected with the home." Sheriff Israel L. Smith, Cleveland Police Officer Bud Cash, Deputy Sheriff Ken Wright, Deputy Sheriff Taylor Caywood, Reserve Deputy and Rescue member Lieutenant Al McCullum, and Bradley County volunteer firefighter Scott Berry all ran the risks to protect the prizes most important to all Americans - our homes and our communities.

However, before these individuals were heroes, they were good public servants. Thomas Jefferson once said, "The care of human life and happiness is the first and only legitimate object of good government." The individuals we pay homage to today personify his belief.

It is so fitting that this community honors these individuals with this memorial wall. An ancient parable reminds us to "Write the bad things that are done to you in sand, but write the good things that happen to you on a piece of marble." And, George Fabricius reminds us "Death comes to all. But great achievements build a monument which shall endure until the sun grows cold."

Also, today we should take note that by establishing this memorial honoring these individuals, you, as a community, also honor the public servants of this area - your law enforcement personnel who provide safe streets and safe transportation; your fire, rescue and emergency service personnel who respond in time of need; your teachers who provide strong schools; and the many others who provide essential services for this area.

I have been honored to serve for the past six years as Chairman of an organization of outstanding public servants - the men and women of the NTSB - the National Transportation Safety Board. Just 400 strong, they serve as the eyes and ears of the 250 million American people at major transportation accidents. The Board serves side by side with the many emergency personnel who respond to the over 2,000 accidents the Board investigates each year. We witness first hand the important work of emergency response personnel and are very aware of the hours of planning, training, and preparation that go into the job of the emergency responder. We also know first hand what their prompt response and training can mean in protecting human life.

Just this past summer, I met with individuals who responded to a tragic pipeline explosion on Bellingham, Washington. I personally observed the efforts of those that attempted the search and later completed the recovery of John Kennedy, Jr., his wife, and sister-in-law. Whether it is the recent loss of a sightseeing plane on a volcano in Hawaii; the crash of three helicopters on a glacier in Alaska; the tour bus accident in New Orleans; the amphibious DUWK accident in Arkansas;, or well-known tragedies such as TWA 800, Valujet, or the AMTRAK accident near Chicago - the emergency response personnel are always there first. On my watch, from Guam to Cape Cod, from the Everglades to the Great Lakes, all over our nation we are all safer because of emergency response personnel - whether they be law enforcement, fire and rescue, or medical service personnel. I am glad I could join you today to say thank you.

In many cases, the NTSB investigations rely on emergency service personnel to protect them at the scene as well - and, in many cases, we work alongside them. Currently, the Safety Board has 36 employees who have worked a total of 475 years as police officers, firefighters, or in other emergency response positions. In 1990, we lost one of our investigators, Danny Raskin, while he was serving as a volunteer firefighter in Baltimore, Maryland.

In closing, let me report to you that the emergency responders in our nation serve our communities in a heroic manner. I am reminded of the saying that "a hero is someone we can admire without apology." I admire the men and women who respond, at unknown risk to their lives, to the many different emergencies that occur every hour of every day in the United States.

And, today we all admire the Building Committee, headed by Mayor Tom Rowland and Reverend Bill Griffiths, that was responsible for this beautiful memorial. I join you, Mayor, in thanking not only the Building Committee; but Don Bowker, Director of Public Works; the Advisory Committee; and the citizens of this community for making this memorial a reality. My congratulations to the citizens of this county!

Finally, let me again state how much I respect and appreciate the work that emergency responders do. I feel privileged to share in the dedication of this memorial with the family, friends and colleagues of those whose names appear on it. Although we all pray that no new names will ever be added to it, we know that those who protect the public's safety, will, like those we honor today, be prepared to give the last full measure in that effort. And, for that, we are all grateful.

Thank you.