There was a threat of a fire on Sukey Ridge during the program honoring Harlan's emergency personnel. Even though the dispatch was later canceled, the seriousness with which they responded was evident on their faces as they sped out of the Harlan Center.
"There they go," said E-911 Coordinator Dan Mosley, who served as the night's emcee. "This just goes to show you that they're always on call and they have to go, even when they are out enjoying themselves in a program that was organized in appreciation for them."
Appropriately held on the night of Sept. 11, An Evening With Harlan Heroes was organized by the Harlan County Photography Guild and members of the community to recognize and applaud the work and dedication of emergency services personnel. Hundreds of the county's first responders and their families attended Tuesday night's program, which included a dramatic photography exhibit displayed by guild members, a dinner, rock concert and special speakers. Crocket Carter and Glenn Durham, representatives with the Gideons, were also there to hand out Bibles to the first responders and to share a few words of encouragement.
"You are our heroes," Alred said when it was his turn to speak. "And what makes you heroes is that you care more for other people's lives than your own."
Alred told of the first experience he had with emergency workers, during the flood of 1977.
Marvin Wynn, the chief of Lower Clover Fork's Fire Department, also attended Tuesday night's program, along with his men and women.
He said they weren't used to "all the fuss," but were pleased.
"It made us feel pretty good," said Wynn, who has been a firefighter for 10 years and a rescue worker for eight. "It made us feel better that there are people out there who care about us and what we do."
State Rep. Rick Nelson said the exhibit was some of the finest photography he's seen.
"The photographs reminded me of how fragile life is," Nelson said. "One minute you are driving, and the next minute, you're not. One minute you have your house, the next minute, it's gone."
Nelson also said a program like An Evening With Harlan Heroes was long overdue.
"These men and women are underappreciated, and you don't think about them until you need them," he said. "And they don't get paid for what they do. They don't get a dime, but it's in their blood."
Harlan County Photography Guild member Judy Hensley said the "Harlan Heroes" exhibit was one of the most humbling projects with which she's been involved.
"The faces of men and women in the pictures taken by guild members, and the faces of those I photographed myself, rise up before me at different times day and night - images of unsung heroes in our midst," Hensley said.
"They study, practice drills, try to stay on top of the latest safety recommendations - all because they are called by some unseen motivation to watch over the rest of us while we go about our daily lives."
Harlan County's Emergency Management Director David McGill, who also works as a paramedic and serves as chief of the Evarts Fire Department, gave recognition to the families of first responders when he spoke to Tuesday night's large gathering.
"Our families endure more than what people realize, too," McGill said. "There's ballgames we miss and other activities, but they're always there for us. They understand, respect us and support us. Our families are our first responders. They are the ones who take care of us."