By Nathan Pfau, Army Flier Staff WriterSeptember 19, 2013
FORT RUCKER, Ala. (September 19, 2013) -- On the anniversary of what is widely remembered as one of the darkest days in American history, the staff at the Fort Rucker Primary School took the opportunity to teach students about the importance of the nation's first responders.
Hundreds of children and faculty members gathered in the gym of the primary school Sept. 11 to learn the importance of first responders, such as police officers, firefighters and paramedics, according to Mietta Hammond, FRPS guidance counselor.
"We're sharing with the children what they're supposed to do and what happens when they dial 911," said Hammond. "This event is a culmination of the ending of our (911) project.
It was no coincidence that the event fell on the anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks, she added, but because of the children's age, it was decided that the focus would be more on the responders than what actually happened on that day 12 years ago.
"We want them to know, when an emergency occurs, such as 9/11, these are the people who will come and take care of them," said the guidance counselor, adding that it helps the students understand not to be afraid of emergency responders by familiarizing the children with the people and tools used in their profession.
During the event, children were able to hear from Fort Rucker's chief of police, Marcel Dumais, Fort Rucker firefighters and paramedics from the local area.
"The most important thing for this age group of children is just an awareness," said Dumais. "They're at the age when everything goes on through their parents, but for them to have an understanding of the 911 system is important.
"You hear on the news all the time about how a child called 911 and saved Family members, so I think it's critically important for them to know how it works," he continued. "We need to put it in a language they understand so that it's not difficult for them, and they need to learn not to be afraid of us."
The responders showed the children the different tools that they used to help them do the particular jobs they do, such as handcuffs, flashlights, gas masks, fire helmets, respirators and more. They also made sure to remind the children that their tools weren't toys, but devices that they use on an everyday basis to save lives.
The reason they were shown these devices is so that in the event that they encounter an emergency responder, they aren't afraid, especially in the case of a firefighter in full dress who might look incredibly frightening to a child.
"There are some parents that are Soldiers and they might have similar tools that they bring to the house (that children need to understand) are not toys, especially when we start talking about firearms," said the police chief. "(This education is) critically important because the potential for loss of life if they get a hold of that firearm and use it is (too great)."
Dumais also said that his goal was to change the perception of law enforcement in the eyes of children because people often use the police as a means of trying to discipline their children, which causes children to become afraid of emergency responders.
"I just think it's important for them to know that the police are good people," he said. "We're here to protect them and the Fort Rucker community -- we're here to make sure that everybody remains safe."