Kids, community mingle with police, firefighters at 1st ‘Public Safety Responders Appreciation Day’

Several kids check out the equipment in the Cedar City fire trucks Saturday during "Public Safety Responder Appreciation Day," created to recognize and thank first responders. Main Street Park, Cedar City, Utah, May 6, 2016 | Photo by Tracie Sullivan Cedar City News / St. George News
Cedar City Firefighters interacted with the kids in the community all day Saturday during the first-ever Public Safety Appreciation Day created to recognize and thank first responders. Cedar City, Utah May 6. 2016 | Photos taken by Cedar City News Reporter Tracie Sullivan St. George/Cedar City News
Cedar City firefighters interacted with kids in the community all day Saturday during the first “Public Safety Responder Appreciation Day,” created to recognize and thank first responders. Main Street Park, Cedar City, Utah, May 6, 2016 | Photo by Tracie Sullivan Cedar City News / St. George News

CEDAR CITY – Boy Scout Troops rose early Saturday morning to line Main Street in the historical district of Cedar City with American flags – a symbol of unity and the personification of courage and sacrifice.

The same words were used by Capt. Ron Lewis, a retired Navy Pilot, to describe the efforts of law enforcement agents, firefighters and emergency medical teams that make up the local public safety community.

“The greatest symbol of unity in America is the American flag. How many times have you driven into a town and saw a lot of flags and asked yourself, ‘What’s so special about today? Why are all those flags out today?’” Lewis said.

The respect Lewis feels towards first responders is what motivated him to organize a “Public Safety Responder Appreciation Day,” celebrated for the first time Saturday.

“These flags were put up as a visual cue to tell the community: Today is Public Safety Responder Appreciation today; today is the day when you should go up to them and thank them for their service, their courage and sacrifice.”

More than 100 residents came out to participate in the event at Main Street Park where several police officers and firefighters were in attendance to visit with them.

Lewis started organizing the event several months ago with help from city officials and community members.

“I came up with the idea of a responder’s appreciation day,” Lewis said, “and I wrote a letter to the mayor in January and suggested we hold an annual responder’s appreciation day. So she met with her people and she agreed. So now this is going to be an annual event.”

Letters from area students written to say "Thank you" to public safety responders are hung up on a wall for the community to read. "Public Safety Appreciation Day," created to recognize and thank first responders. Main Street Park, Cedar City, Utah, May 6, 2016 | Photo by Tracie Sullivan Cedar City News / St. George News
Letters from area students written to say “Thank you” to public safety responders are hung up on a wall for the community to read. “Public Safety Responder Appreciation Day,” created to recognize and thank first responders. Main Street Park, Cedar City, Utah, May 6, 2016 | Photo by Tracie Sullivan Cedar City News / St. George News

Students from area schools were also involved in the process and invited to write letters and draw pictures showing their appreciation for the first responders. The artwork and notes were hung up at the park during the event.

In public safety jobs, where the work is completed more out of selflessness than for public recognition, happenings like Saturday’s event generate a lot of thankfulness, Cedar City Fire Marshal Mike Shurtz said.

“We’re just really honored by the support that we get from the community. I know that as a group we’re always a little bit reluctant to be put in that spotlight and to receive that recognition,” Shurtz said. “We’re just really honored, really grateful, that the community would do this for us, to seek to support us this way. We’re just really humbled.”

Shurtz’s 9-year-old daughter, Ashton Shurtz, was thrilled her daddy was being recognized by others as the hero she already appreciates him to be.

“I think it’s a good day to celebrate all of the people who help us save our town and our country like the firemen who keep the fires away and the policemen who protect us,” she said. “My daddy risks his life every day for the people in the town, every fireman does that.”

Cedar City Police Sgt. Jerry Womack talks with kids about the job of a police officer and explains the various pieces of equipment in their cars Saturday."Public Safety Responder Appreciation Day," created to recognize and thank first responders. Main Street Park, Cedar City, Utah, May 6, 2016 | Photo by Tracie Sullivan Cedar City News / St. George News
Cedar City Police Sgt. Jerry Womack talks with kids about the job of a police officer and explains the various pieces of equipment in their cars Saturday.”Public Safety Responder Appreciation Day,” created to recognize and thank first responders. Main Street Park, Cedar City, Utah, May 6, 2016 | Photo by Tracie Sullivan Cedar City News / St. George News

Cedar City Police Sgt. Jerry Womack said while he feels it’s important for the community to get out and meet the first responders who serve them, the Public Safety Responders Appreciation Day was really just about people getting together and old-fashioned fun.

“None of the first responders can do our job without the citizens and the support of the citizens. So I think it’s important for them to know what we do and for us to hear their points of view,” Womack said. “But honestly, today was just about getting together, getting to know each other and showing appreciation. It was fun.”

Next year, Lewis said, the event may be held a little later in the season to avoid the bad weather. But even with the gray clouds and slight chill in the air, Womack felt there was a great turnout.

“With the weather the way it was I think we had a great turnout …,” Womack said. “I think if it had been a little warmer we would’ve had a better turnout but it was honestly, for a couple of hours, crazy busy so I think we did good.”

Sack lunches were available for those who attended the event. The kids also had a chance to meet police officers and firefighters and learn more about their jobs by asking questions. They also had an opportunity to tour fire trucks and see inside police cars.

The Cedar City Masters Singers were on hand with music, and elementary-age children sang patriotic songs.

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Email: tsullivan@stgnews.com

Twitter: @tracie_sullivan

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2016, all rights reserved.

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