LISBON - When tragedy strikes, people hope help is only a phone call away. Sunday at the county fairgrounds, those who answer that phone call were honored at a ceremony and presentation.
The event was a new twist on an event held last year, where quilts and afghans were presented to veterans. Sharen Cope, organizer for the event, said after that event people told her we also need to think about the first responders and those who sacrificed themselves on Sept. 11, 2001.
This year's theme, "When the Call Comes," was suggested by Irene Houk, who pointed out when people call for help, they take it for granted someone will be there, Cope said.
So crafters from across the county once again went to work, creating more than 40 individual works of art for more than 40 special individuals. These are people who choose to answer the emergency calls locally every day not knowing what lies in front of them, but selflessly offering to help.
"It's an occupation taken for the love of helping people," Doug Brannon, commander of the Salem VFW Post 892, remarked at a ceremony prior to the presentation. "It's not a job. It's a passion."
County Commissioner John Payne talked about a day last year when he personally needed emergency crews after rocks from an East Liverpool hillside came crashing down on his vehicle. Payne said he could not help but be concerned that while a group of "fine men and women" were along the road helping him, the rest of the hillside could have come crashing down on all of them.
As the former director of the county elections board, Payne said he could never understand why anyone voted against police or fire levies, adding these are needed to protect the family and the home.
First responders, police, firefighters, EMTs and paramedics from across the county came to the fairgrounds to celebrate local heroes. Cope said those receiving quilts and afghans were nominated, in some cases anonymously. A book was available at the fairgrounds for people to be nominated. Additionally, people sent letters about individuals or departments who had positively affected them.
But they were not the only ones grateful on Sunday.
"The gratitude expressed to me by the first responders today, some said this was the first time anybody ever thanked them," Cope said.
Cope's mind is already looking at a theme for next year. She believes she is leaning toward honoring specifically Vietnam veterans, those who came back to a country being torn apart by an internal conflict about the war. Borrowing a theme from other counties which have started doing similar quilt projects following in this county's footsteps, Cope said she likes "Operation Forever Grateful."
There is little doubt about creating the quilt or the event continuing. Crafters have already been in contact looking for next year's theme and she has already received confirmation from the Salem VFW that they would again be ready to help with the dinner and ceremony.