Children get pretty excited when they tour fire trucks and ambulances. But what about a flying ambulance, such as when the WakeMed helicopter lands nearby?
“My kids almost died when it landed in front of them,” said Garner resident April Hausen.
Young people got to tour the helicopter, too, and food and other events marked Garner’s first Garner Night Out, a public safety event that mirrors the National Night Out campaign.
Police officers, firefighters, EMS workers and other local officials showed off some of their equipment and vehicles. The event featured a variety of activities, including an ID station where youngsters could have their fingerprints taken.
Garner has observed National Night Out for years, but in the past few years heat had marred the August event ... when it wasn’t canceled by thunderstorms. So the bulk of the event was moved to Oct. 1.
“Last year, we got rained out twice,” said Garner police Sgt. Chris Adams, who ran the event. “This year we wanted to focus on Garner, and do it when we thought we’d have better weather. And the weather was perfect.”
Adams estimated that 150-175 people came to the event, held at Lake Benson Park. It aims to introduce children to public safety personnel and equipment while promoting vigilant neighborhoods and watch groups that allow citizens to help watch for crime.
“Basically it’s a town initiative to bring everybody together – community groups, business leaders – and unite them against crime,” Adams said. “Anytime you see neighborhood involvement like that you see it positively influence crime. Any time people are more aware and communicating better in their neighborhood, it makes a difference. It really does.”
Gigi Smith moved to Garner with her family from Pitt County in August. She had simply taken the children to the park and didn’t know of the event. Her husband works in law enforcement on the state level.
“It’s nice for them to see (public safety) in a positive way, not in a tragic way,” Smith said, her 5- and 8-year-old children in tow.
Hausen’s uncle Gerald Johnson, a long-time Garner resident, also attended the event. He brought his new toy: a 1944 Diamond T firetruck he bought in March, painted bright red.
“I’m kind of a hot rod guy, but it’s the coolest looking thing to me,” the car collector said. “Young people, old people, they’ll all have their phones out to take pictures of it.”
Children also enjoyed their turns sitting in the helicopter, with that line the last to peter out.
“The helicopter was a new thing,” Adams said. “I got a lot of questions about that. It makes a lot of people aware of the resources out there for public safety.”