North Carolina Lt. Gov. Dan Forest made a stop in Mount Olive in a tour of departments Sept. 11 to pay tribute to first responders across the state.
Forest made Mount Olive the third stop in his journey to pay tribute to the men and women who put their lives on the line each day and thanked them personally for all they give to their communities.
“We want to first start off by saying thank you for what you do,” Forest told a crowd of first responders in Harnett County — his fourth stop of the day. “That’s what this day is about.”
Forest told the audience Sept. 11 has been officially declared a state holiday to recognize the efforts of first responders. He said few people are aware the day is also First Responders Day, an official holiday created by Forest’s office three years ago.
He told those present the memories of first responders in New York City and other locations directly affected by the events of Sept. 11, 2001, are the images still fresh in his mind. He applauded the efforts of all first responders for their day-to-day efforts. Efforts which include running toward danger when others are fleeing.
“We can all remember first responders charging into danger, while others run away from danger,” Forest said. “That’s obviously what you do everyday. And we wanted the citizens of our state to have a day and be able to come to you and say thank you for what you do, thank you for your service, thank you for everything you do to protect us day in and day out.”
Forest encouraged all those present to use whatever means they have available to them to spread the message about First Responders Day. He said public awareness of the holiday is low. He stressed it’s something all citizens should understand and celebrate.
“Let your communities know, let them know that today is First Responders Day in North Carolina,” he said. “Our hope is that people will actually stop by your police station, your firehouse or whatever it happens to be and to shake your hand and give you a nod or word of encouragement for what you do. We know you are unsung heroes and it’s a thankless job that you do every single day.”
The lieutenant governor’s brother is a U.S. marshal, but even he wasn’t aware of the state holiday.
“I was talking to my brother this morning and I said happy First Responders Day, and he said, ‘What?’ and I said ‘today is a state holiday’,” Forest said. “He said I had no idea, so I’m going to get on social media and let everybody know. So, shame on me, if your brother doesn’t even know it’s one of those things, it’s tough to get the message out.”
Forest encouraged other members of the state administration, from the governor all the way to the general assembly, to help spread the word about the holiday, and said if each of them shared it with their constituents, word would soon spread and the holiday would become more visible.
“If all the members of the general assembly and everybody got together and went into the communities to say thank you to all their first responders,” Forest said, “I think the word would get around pretty quick.”
Forest also told the crowds that a majority of residents still respect and support law enforcement officers as they carry out their duties on a daily basis. He said negative comments are more prevalent, but in reality the support for law enforcement is strong.
“I talk to people everyday, I travel the state, I travel all over the country, I still haven’t run into those people that hate law enforcement, that hate police officers,” he said. “I think it’s a fabricated story. I think 99% of the country thanks you for what you do.”
Forest said his door is open to the men and women of law enforcement for any reason. He offered his efforts to make sure they have all the tools necessary to keep the public safe and to do their jobs.
“If you are dealing with issues the state could help you in some way, come let us know,” Forest said. “Just walk in our door and you’ll always know when stuff goes down and those bad stories end up on the news somewhere and they’re twisted and tortured stories of the truth, that we’ll always have your back.”
Forest also offered a special thank you to all 911 operators and emergency communicators on his tour. He said, without them, law enforcement officers, firefighters and others would find their job even more difficult.
“You’re on the front lines for the first response, and these folks wouldn’t even get to the scene without you,” Forest said. “You’re part of that first responder team as well, thank you for that.”