It's been 3 1/2 years since a pair of Hannibal firefighters repelled down the face of Lover's Leap to successfully rescue two women, whose car had plunged over the edge of the scenic overlook. The efforts of Shane Jaeger, HFD training officer, and Jeff Moore, engineer, were recognized by the Liberty Mutual Insurance during Tuesday's City Council meeting.
Jaeger and Moore received the company's FireMark Award. It was the first time local firefighters have been honored by the company.
"The two categories are an award for heroism and an award for community service and public education. These two are both going to get it for heroism," said Neil Thomas, a sales representative for Liberty Mutual, on Tuesday morning. "When I heard about this scenario and this situation I thought they should definitely be honored."
Tuesday's recognition was almost as unexpected as hearing a vehicle had gone over the Lover's Leap cliff.
"I was very surprised actually," said Jaeger. "We're very honored to be able to receive that award. When you do something like that you don't really think of anyone awarding you for it or knowing about it. It's just kind of what we do. To be recognized for it, we're very gracious about it."
Thomas, whose father-in-law was a fire chief and whose wife is a paramedic, admittedly has a soft spot in his heart for the work of emergency personnel.
"I think first responders get overlooked a lot. That's just my personal belief," he said. "They got a lot more recognition after 9/11, but any way we can honor them and award them for what they do every day... It's a privilege I get to have, too."
Over the cliff
After the car containing Ruth Hart of Milan, Ill., and Nancy Strohl of Rock Island, Ill., went over the cliff's edge, Jaeger and Moore wound up going down via rope to where the car had come to rest in a tree after dropping roughly 30 feet.
"I was just hoping it didn't shift and move until we could get down to it," said Jaeger, regarding his thoughts as he made his way down to the car which had flipped onto its top. "They both were still hanging upside down inside the car once we got in there."
What still stands out in Jaeger's mind from that day is "how calm they (Hart and Stohl) were in the car."
For Moore, it is just the "experience in general" that he recalls from that day.
"We'd never had anything like that before and the teamwork that the department showed, the guys working together, really sticks out in my mind," he said.
Hours and hours of preparation paid off that day, according to Jaeger.
"The training is very, very important. We wouldn't have been able to do any kind of a rescue like that without the appropriate equipment that we have here or the quality and style of training that we do here," he said.
Page 2 of 2 - "We have to be like the jack of all trades; we've got to know a little bit about everything," added Moore, regarding the assortment of training Hannibal firemen receive.
While Jaeger and Moore were cited Tuesday night, they were quick to note that the successful rescue wouldn't have been possible on that August 2009 day without a team effort.
"It wasn't just me and Jeff. There was a bunch of people there that played a key part in that rescue," said Jaeger.
"My name is on the plaque and his name is on the plaque, but we just happened to be the guys that day that were at the end of the rope. It could have been any guy with the department and the outcome would have been the same," said Moore.