First responders are our unsung heroes
by Jack McNeely
Sep 08, 2013 | 815 views | 0 0 comments | 44 44 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Jack McNeely
Jack McNeely
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This Wednesday marks the 12th anniversary of this country’s darkest day – the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

Early on that sun-drenched Tuesday morning, 19 hijackers took control of four commercial airliners; two crashed into the World Trade Center in NYC, one struck the Pentagon and the fourth crashed in a field outside Shanksville, Penn., as passengers attempted to subdue the hijackers.

We all remember where we were and what we were doing when network television interrupted their regular programming with their daylong reporting efforts. I was in my newspaper office at the Morehead (Ky.) News, which publishes Tuesdays and Fridays. I called the staff together and published an extra edition the following day.

The world was transfixed on the happenings of 9/11, and rightfully so.

The attacks resulted in the deaths of 2,996 people, including the 19 hijackers. Nearly all of the victims were civilians; 55 military personnel were among those killed at the Pentagon.

Also among the dead were 411 first responders who rushed into the burning North and South towers of the World Trade Center. They were the heroes that day.

Rising from the ashes of 9/11 was a well-deserved appreciation of emergency workers across the nation. Those sentiments have not waivered with time.

We will show our appreciation of Walker County’s first responders with a special, keepsake issue this Wednesday called “Unsung Heroes.” We have obtained group photos of most first responder units in Walker County. We will also publish several features of folks who play the role of unsung heroes in our community.

First responders of Walker County often go unrecognized for their valiant efforts to help folks in need. This special issue is our way of saying “Thank You” for that service.

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I want to take a moment to opine about the unfortunate fight between two coaches following last Friday’s high school football game between Cullman and Walker. I was there for the game, but was on my way out of the stadium when the altercation occurred so I did not witness it first hand.

Initially, there were biased accounts from both sides that defended their respective coaches.

Then there was a video. The post-game quagmire was caught on film by Jasper’s TV16. It showed clearly that Cullman coach Matt Hopper approached Walker head coach John Holladay despite Holladay’s gesture to Hopper to go away. We do not know exactly what was said, but Holladay’s reaction has been seen around the globe.

I am sure that not a second passed after grabbing Hopper and landing a right hook that Holladay regretted his actions. But it was too late.

Holladay was placed on administrative leave within 12 hours of the fight. By Tuesday afternoon he had rightfully and responsibly resigned.

Thursday the Alabama High School Athletic Association officially suspended both Holladay and Hopper for one year.

And Friday afternoon, Holladay submitted a statement to the Daily Mountain Eagle, in which he apologized profusely to everyone touched by his actions last Friday, especially Cullman’s coach Hopper.

I do not know coach Holladay personally. But I listened to him as he updated the Jasper Rotary Club about upcoming gridiron seasons.

He wore his passion for the game and his players on his Black and Gold sleeves. I admired that.

Everything that I had heard about the coach up to the fight had been positive. Some say his actions last Friday were “out of character.” I hope so, for his sake and any player under his tutelage if he ever returns to the sidelines.

Jack McNeely is the publisher of the Daily Mountain Eagle and can be contacted by phone at 205-221-2840 or via email at jack.mcneely@mountaineagle.com.