Being that he is a firefighter and that Sunday was the 10th anniversary of 9/11, Wayne Mooney figured there would be some signs of support. The battalion chief and many other firefighters had been invited to numerous ceremonies and church services to memoralize the day.
But nothing Mooney imagined could have topped the experience Gwinnett firefighters had on Sunday, as people flocked to local fire stations to show their support and give their thanks on the solemn anniversary.
"Every time we opened the door there was someone there with something in their hands (to give us)," Mooney said. "I had one fireman tell me: 'My cheeks are tired because I've been smiling all day long.'
"It was overwhelming."
Mooney oversees six stations and his office is at Station 20, located near the intersection of Cruise Road and Sugarloaf Parkway. He said visitors were constant, estimating between 10 to 15 groups visiting each station in the county. People individually visited, families came by and folks representing various business brought by food. All gave thanks for what firefighters do.
One 10-year-old girl, inspired by a church service that day, baked a cake and brought it to the station.
"She was a Girl Scout, and when she got home from church she asked her mom: 'Can we bake a cake and take it to the firemen?'" Mooney said. "It was absolutely amazing. The folks of Gwinnett County were great, and I'm sure it was no different across the country. Folks reached out to us, and it was heartfelt and unbelievable."
With the food piled high in the station, Mooney approached two officers filling their patrol car with gas and invited them in to eat. "They said: 'Every police precinct is the same way,'" Mooney said.
Battalion Chief Ken Chadwick, like Mooney a 23-year veteran of the Gwinnett Fire Department, said the goodwill wasn't confined to the fire stations.
"Just on the street, you'd be stopped at a light and everyone would be waving," Chadwick said. "We're thankful and it was appreciated."
Like Chadwick, Mooney called the day "very humbling." Firefighters don't look for praise, he said, and "every one of our guys does it because we want to do it." To receive so much appreciation is something the local firefighters won't soon forget, Mooney said.
"From the bottom of our hearts we can't say thank you enough that we have the support of the citizens," Mooney said. "I really want to say thank you from all of us to the citizens, whether they supported us with a small thought, a card or a brownie."
Email Todd Cline at firstname.lastname@example.org. His column appears on Wednesdays.