As great a hero as Herschel Walker is to the Bulldog Nation and to football fans in general, he would be the first to tell you that the real heroes are those being honored by the Cobb Chamber next week.
In truth, they deserve our appreciation all year long. I don't know why the police officers and firefighters and emergency responders and their support personnel do what they do. The pay isn't all that great. The stress is higher than a kite. The rest of us have the advantage of 20-20 hindsight and can second-guess and criticize decisions these people have had to make in an instant.
I have had the opportunity to ride with the Cobb County police on a couple of occasions. It is not an overstatement to say that police officers never know what to expect during their shift. A routine traffic stop can turn into a disaster.
And then there are those among us who get righteously indignant when stopped for speeding or some other traffic violation and complain the police should be "catching criminals" instead of harassing "law-abiding" citizens.
I remember the judge in my hometown telling of having an irate citizen appear before him, charged with running a stop sign. She told the judge she didn't like the officer's attitude. She thought he wasn't very friendly and wanted the judge to know. The judge asked if she was aware of where the officer had been prior to that traffic stop. He had just left a home where he had had to tell a family that their son had been killed running a stop sign. The grieved officer may have saved her snooty life.
We rarely, if ever, think about these people until we need them. In January 1986, we awoke to the screech of fire detectors. Our house was on fire. After one feeble attempt to douse the flames with a fire extinguisher - it would have more effective had I chosen to spit on the blaze - we called for help and the Cobb firefighters in the Vinings Village were the first to reach the scene. There wasn't much they could do. The house was an inferno.
Several hours later, they gathered the debris in a pile and began watering again because of the danger of flames reigniting. A fireman came over and told us that in tossing stuff in the pile, they had found our photo albums, charred but intact and had put them aside for us. It was a miracle because you will discover when your house burns down that the items that cost the most are of scant value; the things of little financial worth are priceless. Photos fall in the latter category.
Because we were so traumatized at the time and so busy rebuilding and refurnishing later, I never got the name of the fireman who was kind enough to pull our albums out of the soggy rubble. He had no obligation to do that. He may be retired by now but if he is reading this, my "thank you" is a couple of decades late, but no less heartfelt.
Monday will be an appropriate recognition for Cobb's public safety officials and my thanks to the Cobb Chamber for their efforts. However, I was a little surprised that the Chamber would choose Herschel Walker as their keynote speaker when I was readily available. I asked the Woman Who Shares My Name, "What does Herschel Walker have that I don't have?" She said, "Besides name recognition, universal admiration, good looks, money, charisma and a Heisman Trophy, I can't think of a thing."
I wish my friends in the police department had told her she had the right to remain silent.
You can reach Dick Yarbrough at firstname.lastname@example.org or P.O. Box 725373, Atlanta, Georgia 31139.