Shortly after noon on a recent Sunday, Nancy and I were driving south on I-65 headed for I -10 and on to Gulfport. Suddenly traffic in all southbound lanes was stopped by the Saraland police. We were second in line in the left lane. Ahead of us, we saw a fire engine and several police cars with lights flashing. We saw no sign of a car wreck.
Soon after we stopped, the fire engine moved so as to block traffic in all lanes. Fire fighters and police, some in protective vests, moved about calmly and methodically doing their work. When one of them walked by our car, Nancy asked him what was going on. He courteously replied that there was a man in a truck up ahead on the side of the road with a gun threatening to kill himself. They were trying to talk him down. We thanked him and prayed him well.
Within twenty minutes or so,the same officer walked by our car again and said that the man in the truck had tossed his gun into the grass and the ordeal was over. We saw an ambulance move toward the pickup.
Soon the fire engine that had been shielding the scene moved out of the way, and traffic moved again. We learned later from local TV news that the man with the gun was taken into custody to a local hospital. I pray he has been helped and that he reclaims his life with thankfulness and hope.
In the comfort of our air-conditioned car and in the safe space created in this situation, we watched the "first responders" do their work efficiently and successfully. All of them put their lives on the line. Just a few yards ahead of us, on the other side of that fire engine, they walked calmly toward the real potential of danger. Mercifully, no one was harmed. They accomplished their mission.
Had they not been in their uniforms in the middle of an interstate on a hot day, they would have looked like our neighbors, fellow citizens, with homes and families and lives and hopes and dreams. They would have looked like our neighbors because they are from Saraland, Atmore, Fairhope, or wherever we call home.
Nancy and I salute the police officers, fire fighters, EMTs, and all the first responders of Saraland, including the beautiful shepherd K-9 with them.
Men and women like them do this every day across the land, in your town and ours and countless others. Our neighbors and citizens expose themselves to danger to protect the rest of us.
This September 11 is the 15th anniversary of 9/11. In case we haven't already done so, this will be a good day to begin expressing our thanks to the finest and best.
The Rev. Albert Kennington is vicar of Immanuel, Bay Minette.