Several days after the area was stricken by flooding, Pulaski County Sheriff Ron Long honored those who performed tremendous acts of heroism at an August ceremony.
WAYNESVILLE – Several days after the area was stricken by flooding, Pulaski County Sheriff Ron Long honored those who performed tremendous acts of heroism at an August ceremony.
According to Long, heroes included police officers, highway patrolmen, sheriff's deputies, firefighters, paramedics, and military all willing to " pay any price there is to do their job."
"Over the last few months, especially during the flood, we've had a lot of heroes that stepped up to the plate," Long said. "They don't commend themselves for what they do. They're here because they love their job, they love their community."
In a brief prelude to the ceremony, Long described the house leading up to what became a tragic morning for many Pulaski County residents.
Comparing the flood to the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Long asked, "Where were you on during the 100-year flood?
In the early morning hours of Aug. 6, Long arrived home after a late shift near the midnight hour. Just as any other night, he made a sandwich, crawled into bed and gazed at his television set. But, for some reason, the sheriff felt that night was different.
"I usually hit the pillow and I'm gone," Long explained. "That night I couldn't. Something was out there; I could not sleep."
A vicious strike of lighting crashed outside his home near 2:30 a.m., rattling the residence. Naturally, the sheriff decided to turn on his CB radio and listen to what might be happening.
Immediately, Long recognized "controlled professional chaos" upon learning of the wrath Mother Nature has unleashed on the county.
Minutes passed and Long continually heard officers repeatedly calling for help over the radio.
There were reports of cars washing down the streets and people being swept out of their homes.
"At this point we had four to five cops and a few firefighters [on duty], and that's it," Long said.
Eventually, as the storm escalated into a massive flood, Long decided it was time to call for hel.
"We started making phone calls and, within an hour, we had dozens and dozens of police officers, highway patrolman, county deputies, firefighters, [and] paramedics," Long said. "Within several hours, we had more than that: boots on the ground with military, people in boats and on ATVs, and rescuers from all over this part of the state – Lebanon, Laclede County, Phelps County, Miller County.
Long said within hours more than 100 rescuers arrived to help victims stranded in homes and in gushing floodwaters.
Eventually, the sheriff left his home to a scene near Mitchell Creek and realized how devastating the storm had become.
"It was ferocious," he said of the swollen creek. " It wasn't just trickling, it was coming down like a roaring river."
It was at that scene that a mother and her son were swept away and eventually killed by flooding.
But it was because of the numerous volunteers who put their lives on the line that no one else was killed.
Even as rescuers' boats capsized, once back inside their boats, they continued plucking people out of rushing, frigid floodwaters.
One volunteer, a former Waynesville High graduate and a police officer from Ohio, drove more than nine hours to assist his former community.
Another hero, when being interviewed for a position as a sheriff's deputy, said, in a catastrophe, he'd drive home to secure his wife and child before resuming his duties. When tragedy struck, however, the officer went 18 hours without seeing his family at home.
"That's the type of people you have working in this community, and I'm very thankful—very humbled—to be in front of so many heroes that come out here and serve on a daily basis," Long said at the ceremony.