By Daniel Silliman
The radio disk jockey, wearing a red shirt saying, "94.9 The Bull," was trying to hold the oversized check against his chest, trying to hide it.
A small man, 30, but looking 14, Lance Houston was standing in the hallway of Clayton County Fire Department headquarters and speaking in a stage whisper.
"He's going to freak," Houston said. "He doesn't know. We've double the donation, but he doesn't know."
The large check was written out in blue marker: $1,000. To: Clayton County Fire Department. From: 94.9 The Bull. For: Roger Anthony.
Roger Anthony won a call-in competition at the country radio station. Every ninth caller had a $500 check written out in their name, given to the charity of their choice. Anthony, of Lovejoy, called one night and he was No. 9, a winner, and when the host put him on the air and told him he had won, Anthony said he had a story to tell.
Back in 2002, he quit his job to take care of his brother, he said. His brother was real sick, recently divorced, and needed in-home care, so Anthony quit his job and moved in with his brother.
"He kept falling down, stuff like that," Anthony said. "I went to take care of him. His wife had left him and I figure, that's what family is for."
One day, Anthony walked into his brother's bedroom and found him unconscious and having trouble breathing. His heart was beating very slowly and there were three bottles of Xanax, empty in the room.
It looked like an overdose.
Anthony called a doctor, he recalled, speaking quietly and standing in the truck bay of the fire station. The doctor said the drugs might wear off. The doctor said not to worry.
Anthony was worried, really worried.
"I knew something was wrong," he said.
He called 911 and the fire department's paramedics didn't tell him not to worry, but responded to the scene, pumping Anthony's brother's stomach and saving his life.
His brother overdosed a second time, the next year, and died.
"He told me, 'I just want you to go to bed. Everything is going to be OK,'" Anthony said. "I woke up and he was lying in bed, cold. I didn't know what to do. I was in shock. He was dead."
The body was stiff, when the paramedics arrived. There was nothing they could do for Anthony's brother, but they didn't just pack up and leave. They stayed, in his home, comforting Anthony and keeping him calm.
He started to cry, remembering the paramedics in his home. A gruff man with a heavy black mustache, his voice quavered and his eyes filled with water.
"He has such a moving story," Houston said. "We really responded to his story. He wanted to give the money to the fire department and we were so impressed by his story, we decided to double the donation to $1,000."
The money will be used to fund a scholarship for paramedics, Fire Chief Alex Cohilas said. It will help train young men and women to respond to emergencies and tragedies in the way other men and women responded to Anthony's tragedy.
The gift will also encourage the firefighters and paramedics at the department. They often bear the burden of meeting people and working with people on the worst days of their lives, during private, personal disasters, "and they often wonder if anyone's taking notice" of the work they do, Cohilas said.
"Thank you," the chief said. "I want you to know that experience you had with the Clayton County Fire Department was not abnormal. It is a normal experience. In this department, firefighters and paramedics do what they do because they're committed to the work and to serving the community."