First responders get thanks on morning of anniversary

CNJ Staff Photo: Sharna Johnson
Central Baptist Church deacons, from left, Dwain Collins, George Shuckman and Fred Birdsong fix a plate for patrolman Tim Marshall of the Clovis Police. The church hosted a breakfast for law enforcement.

By Sharna Johnson: CNJ staff writer

As the sun dawned on the fifth anniversary of 9/11, nearly two dozen church members rose with it, heading to the kitchen. Their spatulas and whisks engaged in a flurry of activity as they prepared a hearty Southern-style breakfast — eggs, bacon, biscuits and gravy — a thank-you to the area’s first responders.

About 150 of Clovis’ finest trickled into Central Baptist Church Monday morning and were handed heaping plates of food. Firefighters, rescuers and ambulance personnel, police officers, sheriff’s deputies and investigators were present as the church honored them.

On tables near the entryway lay hundreds of cards, each one addressed to a local responder. The cards bore personal, hand-written messages and prayers from church members. Each guest received four cards, and prayers were said for them during Sunday’s church services, the Rev. Alan McAlister said.

“We do best when we respect and appreciate you,” McAlister told the group of uniformed guests. “We want to recognize your contribution. All of us slept peacefully last night because we knew that you were on the wall. We appreciate all that you do,” he said.

As he prepared to receive his plate, Lt. Matt Wood of the Clovis Fire Department said, “It’s a day of loss. We are remembering this day not only as a loss but as a celebration of those that sacrificed themselves to save others.”

When the World Trade Center twin towers were attacked, Wood said he had just gone to bed after his shift. “A friend called and said, ‘We’re at war,’” he remembered.

Reflecting on the New York City first responders, Wood, a Clovis firefighter for eight years said, “I can’t imagine being in the shoes of those guys. After it happened, you see interviews of those that survived and they were just doing their jobs.”

Clovis Police Chief Bill Carey said he and his department were grateful for the show of respect from church members. “We appreciate the breakfast this morning and the camaraderie.”

While the food was good, Carey said it was the words of the pastor and the music that meant the most to him. “The breakfast was good, don’t get me wrong, but I enjoyed the speaking and the songs,” he said with a smile as he left to begin his workday.