BAY COUNTY, Fla. (WJHG/WECP) - First responders are trained to do just that. Be the first to help during emergencies.
This is a photo inside the old Lynn Haven Police Department after Hurricane Michael tore through the area. (WJHG/WECP)
"Being in our line of business, we're there for everybody's worst day," said Panama City Beach Fire Rescue's Division Chief Terry Parris.
But on October 10th, 2018, Hurricane Michael stopped life in its tracks, even holding the bravest back from doing their jobs.
"We're used to being the protector, and there was nothing we could do to protect them," said Lynn Haven Police Chief Ricky Ramie.
A year after the storm, the memories of those moments are fresh in the minds of firefighters, police officers, and EMTs.
"It didn't feel good not being able to go do anything, just having to sit still," said Springfield Firefighter Ashley Cook.
Parris, Ramie, and Cook were all in different places as the storm made landfall, but they share a common story. Their lives were forever changed by not being able to answer calls for help.
"I felt... I felt helpless," said Ramie.
During a mandatory evacuation, people are told no one can rescue you if you chose to stay.
Parris was inside the Bay County Emergency Operations Center during Hurricane Michael, helplessly listening to 9-1-1 calls, a tough thing to do for a first responder.
"It takes a unique person to be in our line of work. Our mentality is we're the problem solvers, no matter what. No matter what's thrown at us, we solve the problem. And at that time not only were we trying to figure out how to solve a problem for everybody, but now it got personal," said Parris.
It also got personal for Chief Ramie.
"The walls started just breathing," said Ramie.
Ramie and his family, along with about dozens of other people, were at the Lynn Haven Police Department.. A place of safety, until that day.
"I was telling everybody, it's okay, we're gonna get through this, we will make it. You know so I was being very optimistic and trying to keep everybody's spirit up. I didn't feel that way one the inside, you know I was actually... I was scared to death," said Ramie.
The fear grew greater as the building collapsed.
"We were trapped, we were inside that building and you heard people's wives screaming, kids screaming, people crying, a gaping hole in the roof," said Ramie.
Across town, the hurricane also took aim at Springfield firefighters.
"It honestly didn't get real for me until we ran to the trucks because we were still inside the building and the roof was kinda coming off, and our chief said run to the trucks to hide and then you see everything and then I really didn't know what to do that was the first time I've been like 'Ahh, what do I do?'" said Cook.
The roof came crumbling down on the trucks where firefighters were hiding, stranding them at the station..
"I mean I've never been through anything like that," said Cook.
To add fuel to the fire, these brave men and women who vow to protect and serve also realized at the peak of the storm, they couldn't even help their own families.
"At the EOC, right before we lost all communications, my sister from out of state called me and said that my mom called her and said that the roof was coming off and she was trying to hide and then she lost my mom," said Parris.
A tough call for Parris to receive.
"It was rough, I didn't know if she was alive," said Parris.
In the chaos after the storm, Ramie had to focus on his job while having no idea if his daughter was safe.
"You see the catastrophic damage that are done to homes and trees and you're hearing about you know the number of people that had been killed in Mexico Beach, and you don't have contact with your daughter... and it was the Sheriff that found her... and told me that she was okay," said Ramie.
But personal hardships didn't stop these life savers from doing their jobs.
"I wore this uniform for three days straight and we worked just non-stop, going from residence to residence," said Ramie.
Putting emotions aside for the job at hand, these first responders are continuing to protect our community, but with a new perspective after Hurricane Michael.
"I thank God every day... for protecting us and our families," said Ramie.
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