Tim Gregg wants you to remember September 27. He wants that day set aside for the public to recognize the often unsung work of first responders. He wants you to remember it, because it’s a day he’ll not soon forget.
On September 27, 2006, 53-year-old Duane Roger Morrison walked into Platte Canyon High School in Bailey, CO, took six female students hostage and sexually assaulted them. He let four of the girls go before police stormed the classroom he was in. Using the remaining two girls as shields, Morrison shot at police, then shot and killed one of the girls, 16-year-old junior Emily Keyes, before taking his own life.
The other girl in the classroom that day when the shooting took place was a foreign exchange student Gregg’s family was hosting. She survived, and Gregg says she’s doing well today and in medical school. His own daughter was in Denver on a field trip and wasn’t in school when the shooting took place.
For Gregg, the hostage crisis and shooting was an eye-opening experience.
“There have been other experiences in my life where I felt, as a citizen, almost helpless,” Gregg says. “The shooting showed me firsthand how all these different organizations come together. They’re always there but in the background, and we as citizens often don’t get a chance to thank them after an incident. These people are out there every day defending us against any type of thing that might go wrong. My motivation is to try to help people proactively think about our first responders, to set aside a day to really think about them instead of just when we’re in one of life’s unfortunate situations.”
Gregg, who has been working for several years to create a National First Responder Appreciation Day on September 27, says he’d also like to help the public become more aware of the issues facing first responders and how the public can help first responders do their jobs more easily.
So far, Gregg has successfully worked to get the day recognized in Colorado, where the state government has annually renewed a resolution declaring September 27 Colorado First Responder Appreciation Day. And he’s had some inquiries from individuals in other states, namely Oregon, interested in establishing their own First Responder Appreciation Day. But getting the day recognized nationally has been much more difficult.
“There’s been reluctance at the national level,” says Gregg. “We see and hear about all these national days, but there are very few ‘official’ national days. They either need to be established by a congressional resolution or an executive order from the president.”
Gregg says he has contacted the White House and the current administration but there’s been little interest in establishing an official day at this time. He’s also worked with Colorado’s congressional delegation but it’s been slow going.
“Several years ago former Sen. Wayne Allard (R-CO) introduced a Senate resolution that passed with bipartisan support,” Gregg says. “However, when it got to the House it never made it to the floor before the session closed. And just recently I received interest from a congressman whose district I’m not in. I’m working with them to try to get the ball rolling. Trying to get the wheels of Washington moving is sometimes difficult. I don’t have a lobby; the lobby is me. But once somebody does take this up I really feel we shouldn’t see any significant difference from what happened in Colorado—a unanimous vote for the resolution.”
Gregg says he has reached out to first responders to drum up more widespread support for his cause, but they don’t like tooting their own horn.
“My experience with all first responders is they’re very humble people,” Gregg says. “But as a citizen, who has had the benefits from them laying their lives on the line, it’s very important for me to recognize them. This is a citizen-driven thing and I’d love to see it recognized by regular citizens in all 50 states.”