Photo by Corinne Nicholson
DULUTH -- Since the day she nearly lost her life when her car was swept into a rain-swollen river, Diana Farmer has dropped off treats for the firefighter who saved her.
On her birthday, she brought him steaks, knowing she would not have celebrated that day without his bravery during last September's floods.
But Farmer was proudest Friday to be there when firefighter Scott Robertson was honored with the Gold Medal of Valor on Friday before a ballroom filled with public safety heroes.
"I don't know if you can even say anything enough to recognize that kind of courage," Farmer said of Robertson's recognition, the highlight of the annual Chamber of Commerce Valor Awards. "It's very well deserved."
After a long period on the roof of her car Sept. 21, Farmer said she knew she would be OK when members of the Fire Department's Swift Water Rescue Unit responded.
But as the crew began to cautiously approach her, Farmer slipped into the water. Robertson didn't hesitate to swim to her and was able to hold onto her and a rope, despite an injury to his hand, while they both were forced under water.
"I can't say enough about the training we get. It all kicked in," said Robertson, 24, who has been in the department four years. "I can't explain it. I really didn't know what I was getting into at the time."
The swift water team was the star of Friday's ceremony, as the members of Buford's Station 14 were honored as the Public Safety Unit of the Year.
Even as Lilburn Police Officers Matt Price, Rico Anderson, Jami Hollis and Sgt. Stephen Weed were honored with the Lifesaving Award for their efforts to save a woman trapped on the roof of her house by rising waters, they returned thanks to the swift water team that rescued them from the water.
"Our heroes for that night were the swift water rescue team," Weed said when accepting the award.
Also Friday, Gwinnett Police Sgt. Eddie Restrepo was named Public Safety Person of the Year for his efforts to link crimes that eventually lead to the disbanding of a violent drug cartel, now being prosecuted in federal court.
The winner of the Silver Medal of Valor was Corrections Officer Timothy Frates, who secured inmates after witnessing a shooting, trying to save the victim and warding off the perpetrators.
The bronze award went to Lilburn Police Sgt. Jeremy Hicks and officer Carly Davis for quick apprehension of armed robbery suspects later linked to a string of crimes.
Leslie Leatherwood was named Communications Person of the Year for the creation of training manuals for the 911 center, and Duluth Master Patrolman Randy Samuel received the Medal of Merit for a mentoring program created to help local students.