GULFPORT, Miss. (WJTV) — Local first responders were the guests of honor Friday for a special event on the coast. It took place at the Barksdale Pavillion in Gulfport.
About 3,000 people showed up to honor the men and women who worked long hours in the days after Hurricane Katrina. Some even saving lives in the process.
Friday was all about recognizing a special group of people who made a major impact a region of the country hit by one of the worst natural disasters in U.S. history.
Former President Bush received a standing ovation when he took the stage.He praised the area for its resilience and personally thanked the emergency responders for the work they did.
“No law, no government said you need to go down and help,” Bush said. “My judgement is they responded to a higher calling. To love a neighbor like you’d like to be loved yourself. It’s a great testimony to the character of the American people. To go and help total strangers.”
“Th first responders were our everything,” said Barbara Malley, who was the Gulfport Council President during Hurricane Katrina. “They were our lifelines. We could not have done what we did as a city without them. To honor them is just amazing. It’s been a long time coming.”
However, for many of these real life heroes, the contributions they made were all in a days work.
“As a responder, we do it from our hearts. We believe in this, we do this every single day,” said Reggie Bell, of the State Fire Academy.” To be honored it was an honor.”
“We always had the motivation,” said D’iberville Police Chief Clay Jones. “The motivation was there. With the support of our legislators, the Governor, and the President they gave us some funding to build back stronger and better than ever and were prepared for the next one.”
Each of the renowned leaders that took the stage reminded the group of the pivotal decisions they made that literally saved lives. Each of them thanking these men and women for a job well done.
“Crisis does not create character. Crisis reveals character,” said Former Governor Haley Barbour. “The spirit and character that we saw from the people of Mississippi after Katrina, it was there all along. We only got to see it in the greatest crisis in the history of our state.”
“We appreciate it, but we’re not heroes,” Bell said. “We do it because we live it.”
The event was sponsored by Walmart. The company revealed plans to commit $25 million to supporting organizations that help communities build back after these kind of disasters. $2.9 million will be given to non-profit organizations that help families on the coast.