By Curt Yeomans
The basketball court at Morrow High School was covered in red on Friday, during a 9/11-inspired "Heroes Game," featuring the Clayton County police and fire departments, sheriff's office, and emergency medical technicians.
That's because the firefighters and EMTs, who were wearing red jerseys, out-dribbled, out-shot, and out-rebounded their law-enforcement counterparts, who were wearing blue jerseys.
When the final buzzer sounded, the firefighters and EMTs had won the game by a score of 66-45.
"I respect the police officers and sheriff's deputies, and I think they do a great job at keeping the streets of Clayton County safe - It's just too bad they can't hang with us in basketball," said Clayton County Fire Department Chief Alex Cohilas, who also coached the firefighter/EMT team.
It was eight years ago on Friday that terrorists hijacked four air planes, flying two of them into the World Trade Center's Twin Towers in New York City, and a third into the Pentagon in Washington D.C. The fourth plane crashed in a field in Shanksville, Pa. Nearly 2,800 people died in the attacks, including several New York City police officers and firefighters who were helping people evacuate the World Trade Center.
Before the game on Friday, Morrow High School Principal Patricia Hill and Athletic Director Jay Livingston explained to the audience that the purpose of the game was to let the county's public safety workers have a chance to enjoy themselves on the anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
There were nine firefighters and EMTs on one team, and five sheriff's deputies, and four police officers on the other. Several other firefighters, EMTs, deputies and police officers were spectators in the stands.
"You put out fires, patrol our streets, chase criminals, and just make sure our community is safe, which many times is a very thankless job," Hill said. "At this time, we'd like to show you how much we appreciate what you do."
Livingston added: "Your lives are on the line everyday, and yet you think of us first, before you think about yourselves."
Cohilas said the public safety workers have fun teasing each other in non-serious events, like the "Heroes Game," but he stressed that all of the departments are a team in the community. "When we're working for Clayton County, we are united in our goal to keep this community safe," he said.
Sheriff's Deputy Kacy Johnson, who played for the law enforcement team, said officers and deputies enjoyed participating in the game, because it was a break from their normal routines. "It's an opportunity for all of us to come together and have some fun," he said. "It also gives us an opportunity to do something besides policing the streets."
Johnson called the 9/11 anniversary a "blessed day," in which public safety workers can be thankful that they had another day to wake up, and to "honor the ones who didn't get another day."
This is the second time Morrow High School has hosted a 9/11-inspired "Heroes Game." The first game, five years ago, also ended with a firefighter/EMT victory.
"We take physical fitness very seriously in our department - and we expect to win because we are the defending world champions in the International Firefighters Challenge - so we're not scared to play police officers and the sheriff's deputies in a basketball game," Cohilas said.
Livingston said he plans to make the "Heroes Game" an annual event, held on the anniversary of 9/11.
Johnson said he is already looking forward to another shot at the firefighters and EMTs. "Next year, we're going to come together and practice a little bit, and maybe we'll come out on top," he said.
Charitable donations were solicited from spectators during the game, with the proceeds going to the charity of choice for the winning team. The firefighter/EMT team's charity is the Clayton Center, which works with adults and children in the county who suffer from mental illnesses, substance abuse or developmental disabilities.