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First Responders Day offers opportunity to say thank you for a ‘miracle’

Lake Saint Louis police officers line up at a first responders ceremony at Lake Saint Louis’ Veterans Memorial Park.

Lake Saint Louis police officers line up at a first responders ceremony at Lake Saint Louis’ Veterans Memorial Park.

Joyce Smith had a message for the Lake Saint Louis, Wentzville and St. Charles County first responders who gathered on May 18 for a ceremony in Lake Saint Louis.

“I thank you for my son’s life,” she said, standing at a podium before a crowd at the First Responder Day Ceremony at the city’s Veterans Memorial Park. “I keep saying thank you, I just don’t know what other words to tell you other than I appreciate every one of you for what you did.”

What they did was help rescue three 14-year-old boys who fell through the ice at Lake Sainte Louise on Jan. 19.  John Smith’s rescue was particularly amazing.

He spent 15 minutes underwater before being rescued and another 40 minutes without a heartbeat. His mother, Joyce, calls his recovery a “miracle” – one made possible by the quick and caring actions of the responders who rescued him.

The rescue was the impetus for the ceremony initiated by Lake Saint Louis and designed to recognize individual responders who played a role that cold January day.

Fire and police chiefs and other agency directors presented plaques and tokens of appreciation to more than 20 members of the Lake Saint Louis fire and police departments, Wentzville Fire Protection District, St. Charles County Dispatch and Alarm and county Ambulance District. Staff members of the Lake Saint Louis Community Association also were recognized for their role in alerting first responders when they saw the boys fall through the ice.

Lake Saint Louis Mayor Kathy Schweikert said first responders act instantly when they receive a call and they work together – as has been the case with natural disasters like the recent tornados in Joplin, Bridgeton and St. Charles County.  “And they all did that one January morning this year right here in Lake Saint Louis,” Schweikert said.

“The specific instant we’ve highlighted here today is a shining example of what happens when all of us come together and work together on a problem, in this case, a very serious problem – saving a life,” Lake Saint Louis police chief Mike Force said.

Force also lauded local public officials for their willingness to participate in recognizing first responders at a time when they are under increased scrutiny.

“What courage it takes to stand up and publicly say these men and women do a great job for us,” Force said.

Recognized were Lake Saint Louis police officers Ryan Hall and Rick Frauenfelder, detectives Rebecca Hurwitz and Sgt. Bret Carbray, and dispatchers Sheri Tullock and Denise Roberts.  Lake Saint Louis Fire Protection District personnel Capt. Justin Darnell, engineer Joe Morrow and firefighter Mike Terranova also were recognized.

Chief Mike Marlo, Battalion Chief Joe Hutson, Captain Max Mueller, and firefighters and EMTs Tommy Shine and Scott Dee from the Wentzville Fire Protection District also were recognized.  The county Department of Dispatch and Alarm recognized supervisor Andrea Burke and dispatchers Debbie Kasperski, Brian Grimes and Kerri Marlo. County ambulance district paramedics recognized were Battalion Chief Jeremy Hollrah, Ashley Pease, Blake Gabbard, Rosalba Cirami, Robert Reed, Lisa Cassidy and Greg Pendleton.

Audience members were invited to write sentiments to first responders on little cardboard cards, some of which were presented to the first responders after the ceremony ended. Joyce Smith wrote a message on a card, which she presented to Jeremy Hollrah along with a big hug.  What did the card say?

“We were thankful you were there when we most needed you,” Smith said.

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