Drivers stranded during the winter storm that paralyzed metro Atlanta Jan. 28 had few choices where to go. Some ran out of gas after sitting in a traffic standstill for hours. Some faced the choice to walk miles in the dark through freezing weather to get home.
During this crisis, more than 75 people found overnight refuge at Cobb County Fire and Emergency Services stations and police precincts.
Brenda Hurley, a Roswell resident, had just spent nine and a half hours on the road traveling only 14 miles when she and a coworker found shelter at Fire Station 20 in east Cobb.
"They welcomed us with open arms," she said, noting the firefighters started cooking them pancakes as people started coming in. "They were extremely busy that night, but they made sure we were well taken care of."
Meanwhile, Cobb firefighters and police officers spent the cold evening providing medical assistance to stranded drivers, helping clear roads and driving children home.
"Though there was a formal declaration for citizens to seek help at police and fire facilities, no formal declaration was needed to compel our employees to provide assistance," Public Safety Director Sam Heaton said.
"This is the type of compassion Public Safety personnel have day in and day out. I believe it is in the DNA of every police officer, firefighter or public safety employee."
Other reports of goodwill from the event range from an off-duty Cobb County firefighter, Engineer Steve Bradley, who used his personal vehicle to ferry stranded residents home, to a civilian who made several trips carrying sand and limestone to help free a fire engine rendered immobile by the ice.
Residents who received shelter have found various ways to thank Public Safety personnel, including Hurley, who works for the local restaurant chain Willy’s.
She and her coworker, restaurant manager Cory Conley, recently delivered a free catered meal to the firefighters at Station 20. She has stayed in touch with them and is planning another meal on their behalf.
"We found friends for life," Hurley said.
Heaton said the aid Public Safety personnel provided to the citizenry was not a surprise at all.
"If you want to find a group of individuals that seek out ways of being helpful in times of crisis or committed to service, you have to look no further than the employees we have in our Cobb County Public Safety agencies," he said.