In 2015, in response to his own and others’ outrage over the execution of two New York cops while they were eating a quick bite in their patrol car, Jerry Barksdale started an organization called Together We Stand, Alabama. The purpose was, and is, to show our first responders that we are both grateful for and aware of the risks they take to protect us, and to show our support in any way we can.
People put blue light bulbs in the sockets of their porch lights to show solidarity with cops who were pulling the night watch. About 150 came out of the woodwork from all of North Alabama to raise money, design graphics, do advertising, organize entertainment, and the result was a beautiful meal held for our law enforcement personnel and their significant others in the Limestone County Event Center. The place was packed out, and I personally had the pleasure of “greeting and seating,” as well as seeing the gratitude on their faces as we showed our gratitude. The Mayor did several skits as his favorite alter-ego, Barney Fife, Chief Floyd Johnson had to handle being referred to as “Flossie” for awhile, City Councilman Chris Seibert was a biker, and even Adam and Eve were there. Jackie Greenhaw produced another fine show, the laughs were hearty, and the thanks were deep.
What was particularly gratifying to me was that there was enough money collected and donated to do another event, and this time the honorees would be the First Responders who are connected with Fire, Rescue, Paramedics, EMTs, and Dispatch. While most of the time they do not have to be involved in stopping or preventing actual crime, they put their lives on the line, too, and fatalities are not unheard of in their line of work.
I had a chance to chat with Jerry Barksdale about the event, which is coming up on June 3rd. He had the following to say: “It is not just the police who rush to danger. Others, do too, and they deserve to be honored. I want the public to know that we are doing this for all the citizens of Athens Limestone County, representing them and saying thanks for them to all these brave men and women who deserve to hear it. If we had a place that could hold everyone who wants to come and say thanks, we would do that, but for now, we have to focus on our first responders and make sure they have an evening they will remember. We want them to know that we know what they do for us.”
Jerry also mentioned that he is gratified by the swell of support that started in 2015, and has continued on into this year. “We really didn’t know what would happen,” he said. “What started out as a way to support the men and women in blue grew to what it is today, and I am just glad that we can show the other First Responders how much we are behind them.”
These are the kinds of things that make me glad that I live in Athens, Alabama, and I want to thank all of you who are expressing your gratitude in such a grand and abundant manner. It is my joy to stand with you as you stand with all our First Responders, and we all stand together.
By: Ali Elizabeth Turner