A dozen firefighters and rescue workers stood uncomfortably in front of 300 people at the Clubs of Quantico on Thursday afternoon while NBC 4 News anchorman Jim Vance read the citations for the awards they were about to receive.
The men of fire and rescue units from Yorkshire, Loudoun County, Prince William, Manassas and Manassas Park were recognized in the 16th Annual Valor Awards Ceremony hosted by the Prince William Regional Chamber of Commerce.
Their heroic responses to an apartment fire in Yorkshire, when many of them were off duty and without their gear, garnered the firefighters and emergency medical technicians the honors.
Joseph Loving, of Manassas Park Fire Department and Volunteer Company, said the crowd of appreciative chamber members and the praise of the moment hadnt made him self-conscious.
He said the memories of the day in July when he and his comrades just happened to notice smoke billowing from the apartment complex came back to him as Vance read the citations.
“You know it seems like, in the time it took him to read that, we did all of those things that day,” said Loving, a career paramedic and firefighter.
Loving and the men from the other units did as firefighters will do. They ran toward, and into, a burning building to save others.
Some climbed ladders to windows bursting with fire without protective gear because there was no time to don the equipment. Others ran into the collapsing building. Mike Boub, a Loudoun County firefighter, caught a 15-month-old child who was tossed from a second-story window.
“Its scary to think about,” said Loving, who was among the initial firefighters to arrive at the scene. “Its scary to have people screaming at you to save them.”
While Loving said he was pleased to be recognized for his efforts, he is not anxious to win another award.
“I dont want to go through what we went through that day to win another one,” Loving said.
“We were lucky that day. We were right there,” Loving said.
There were no fatalities at the apartment complex.
Diane Simpson, the widow of fallen firefighter Jeff Simpson, accepted a posthumous award for her husband who was last seen 150 yards from the World Trade Center on Sept. 11.
Simpson received a gold medal, the highest award offered by the chamber.
Simpson was in New York on a business trip when the terrorists struck.
Everyone who knew Simpson, a volunteer emergency medical technician at the Dumfries Triangle Rescue Squad, feels sure that he, like his brethren, ran toward the towers to try and aid those in need, Diane Simpson said after the ceremony.
“Its not surprising that he ran in there,” Diane Simpson said, “Rescue was his life.”