Thirty-nine men and women of the Alexandria fire, police and sheriff departments were honored Tuesday during the 24th Annual Public Safety Valor Awards ceremony presented by the Alexandria Chamber of Commerce and Inova Alexandria Hospital.
It was the largest number of award recipients in the history of the event to recognize the dedication and sacrifices of the citys corps of first responders.
I believe in giving back to the community. And, each of the men and women we honor here today are doing that every day in their chosen careers, said former Redskins football great Charles Mann, who served as the luncheons master of ceremonies.
Mann was joined in that praise by Christine Candio, CEO of Inova Alexandria Hospital and Tina Leone, president of the Alexandria Chamber of Commerce.
Of all the events we do this is by far the most inspiring to me, said Leone.
We appreciate what you do every day, Candio stated.
Receiving this years top award, the gold medal, was firefighter Doug Townshend who entered a burning home while off-duty to save the life of the resident, asleep inside, who otherwise would have died as the house was totally destroyed.
That resident was Townshends brother.
On the night of March 13, 2009, Townshend and his wife Kris were leaving their home when they noticed smoke in the neighborhood. Townshend soon realized it was coming from his brothers home. He entered the inflamed residence through a bedroom window and began to scream for his brother.
Although his brother heard firefighter Townshend, the dense smoke and escalating flames prevented them from finding each other. Townshend was forced to bail out of the window in order to get fresh air, then reentered the home, determined to find his brother.
On the second attempt they found each other and the firefighter led his brother to safety.
I was either going to find him or I was going to die in there with him, cause I wont be able to live with myself leaving him, he said.
His brother suffered severe smoke inhalation and second-degree burns to his hands. He was transported to a Richmond hospital for treatment. The house was condemned because the fire had totally destroyed it and all its contents.
For his unselfish valor that night, Townshend joined the ranks of 29 other gold medal recipients from the fire and police departments dating back to 1986.