First Responder Families

Feature

By Rachel Studebaker / Top Photo by Leah Sullivan

When a crisis occurs, first responders are there to answer the call. From firefighters and paramedics to law enforcement and 911 dispatchers, these individuals have devoted their livelihoods to helping people in emergencies. For some, a career in first response runs in the family. This is the case for the following six duos, from siblings serving together to children following in a parent’s footsteps. Read on to hear how these locals are showing up for the Scenic City and what it’s like to be part of a first responder family.

garrett family

Austin Garrett & Haley Garrett

Photo by Trevor Long

Left: Communications Training Officer Haley Garrett

Right: Sheriff Austin Garrett

When Austin Garrett, Sheriff of Hamilton County, listens to his radio, he sometimes hears a familiar voice on the line. His daughter, Haley, is a telecommunicator with Hamilton County 911 and is joining him in answering the call of service.

“It’s very unique and comforting when I am engaged on the radio and hear my daughter on the other end. I know how professional and outstanding she is in her position, and it’s like she is watching over me,” shares Austin.

Though Haley hadn’t planned to go into public safety, she “immediately fell in love with what we do inside 911.” Now in her sixth year with Hamilton County 911, she fills the role of communications training officer and is still just as passionate about her job.

As a telecommunicator, Haley is the first line of response in emergencies. While she says that hearing “the worst of the worst” is never easy, Haley loves “that no call is the same and that every day I get the opportunity to make a true impact in someone’s life.” She recounts a memorable call, where she provided CPR instructions that ended up saving an elderly man’s life, remarking, “It’s an indescribable feeling to know someone in this community is alive today because of my ability to jump in and help.”

Having family in public safety, including her husband, provides Haley with a cherished support system: “I am surrounded by family members who know what I’m actually dealing with when it comes to stressful calls and difficult schedules.” She’s especially grateful for her father’s example, adding, “Seeing him pour into our community for 29 years, work countless hours, and put everyone before himself has always inspired me to be better, work hard, and it has shown me the value of serving my community.”

Also inspired by a parent is Austin himself whose father was a deputy sheriff in Jackson County, Alabama. “He volunteered in an extremely rural country. He was and is my inspiration for serving in law enforcement,” says Austin.

Before joining the Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office as chief deputy, and now sheriff, Austin served for 25 years with the Chattanooga Police Department. He recalls the day he retired as lieutenant – what would become one of the most special moments he’s shared with his daughter and a viral story for national news outlets: “When I signed off the radio for the last time before coming to work at the sheriff’s office, Haley was the voice on the other end … Hearing her voice gave me satisfaction, knowing that my career inspired her to serve others in the field of public safety.”

Austin concludes by sharing the three beliefs that fuel his service as a first responder every day: “I believe this is the most noble profession that one can choose when it is done right. I believe in the men and women who choose to serve in this profession and do it right. Lastly, I believe that Hamilton County is the greatest place to live, work, and play.”

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lowery family

Charles Lowery Jr. & Charles Lowery III

Photo by Trevor Long

Left: Chief Deputy Charles Lowery Jr. (Retired)

Right: Lieutenant Charles Lowery III

Both Charles Lowery Jr. and his son, Charles Lowery III, have always wanted to be police officers, a dream that would lead both men into successful careers with the Hamilton County Sherrif’s Office (HCSO).

For Lowery Jr., this childhood dream turned into an over-40-year career with HCSO until his retirement in 2018. When Lowery Jr. joined the office in 1977, he wasn’t just achieving a long-held career goal – he was making history. Lowery Jr. was the first Black man with a college degree to be hired by HCSO and continued to break new ground as the first Black motor deputy and police motorcycle instructor and second Black chief deputy in HCSO’s centuries-long history. He shares that one of his most meaningful accomplishments was being selected to establish the School Resource Officer (SRO) program in Hamilton County Schools, a program that will carry on his legacy as SROs across the county serve their schools.

Growing up watching his father work in law enforcement, Lowery III knew he wanted to follow suit, recalling, “It began when I was a little boy watching my father put on his sheriff’s uniform, getting ready to go to work as a sergeant on night shift.” He joined his father at HCSO in 2010, and today, he serves as lieutenant over security operations.

Lowery Jr. says he’s proud of his son and considers it an honor to have another first responder in his family. He was present for each of Lowery III’s achievements, from his graduation from the police academy to his first promotion to corporal, where Lowery Jr. pinned the badge on his son. Lowery III holds these memories dear and is grateful for the eight years he spent working alongside his father, saying “It was great working with my hero, my father. A dream that came true.”

As he lives out his desire to help others, Lowery III also works to find a healthy work/life balance and keep a clear mind during the challenging times he encounters on the job. In doing so, Lowery III looks to his father’s example. “He inspires me to never settle nor give up on my dreams. He inspires me to be the best father I can be to my three beautiful daughters. To always put God first and family second,” he shares.

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quintrell family

Billy Quintrell & Zachary Quintrell

Photo by Trevor Long

Left: Battalion Chief Billy Quintrell (Retired)

Right: Firefighter/DPO Zachary Quintrell

After serving his city for over four decades as a firefighter, Billy Quintrell is saying a bittersweet goodbye to the East Ridge Fire Department as he steps into retirement. As one long, successful career comes to a close, another continues to build its own legacy.

Billy’s son, Zachary, is also a firefighter, a decision that Zachary says came easily. He shares that he “practically grew up in the fire station” and entered the field at 24 years old as a volunteer firefighter, working alongside his father at East Ridge. 11 years later, Zachary now works full-time with the Red Bank Fire Department.

Seeing Zachary’s excitement when he first became a firefighter reminded Billy of his own beginnings. He recalls submitting his volunteer application in 1981, before the city of East Ridge even owned its own fire department. When the East Ridge Fire Department was established in 1993, Billy joined its team and would remain there until retirement. “Being part of the firefighting brotherhood and being of service to my community are the reasons I decided to make this my career,” he explains.

When Zachary announced his plans to become a firefighter, Billy was incredibly proud. “It wasn’t something that I ever pushed because I wanted him to make his own decision,” he says. “Going into your first fire is a big rite of passage, and I am proud to say that I was the one to take my son into his first fire.”

“My dad has inspired me to be my best, even when I have to show up to everyone’s worst,” says Zachary, adding that he finds joy in the little things like “seeing kids’ faces light up when I drive by and cut the lights on and give them a bump of the sirens!”

The role of first responder provides countless memorable moments, and Billy shares one that always stands out: “Years ago, when you first became a firefighter, medical training was not required. When I was 18, we went on a house fire, and I helped rescue a woman who had been badly burned. After I got her out of the house, I realized I didn’t know what to do for her next. Luckily, the ambulance arrived on the scene quickly. This incident is what inspired me to go to EMT school. 30 years later, I walked into a store in East Ridge in uniform and a lady began telling me how she had been in a house fire when she was younger … she was the burn victim I had pulled from that fire. It meant a lot to see her alive and healthy so many years after the fact.”

During the last shift of Billy’s career, father and son got to see their experiences come full circle as Zachary rode along with his father for the last time, the same way Billy had been present for his first fire. Looking back over his career, Billy maintains, “There have been frustrating and heartbreaking times for sure, but overall, I couldn’t have made a better career choice, and I am so proud to have my son following in my footsteps.”

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jackson and holloway

Kera Jackson & Sara Holloway

Photo by Leah Sullivan

Left: Paramedic Sara Holloway

Right: AEMT Kera Jackson

Growing up, Kera Jackson always wanted to help others, and working for a hospital for the better part of a decade just solidified that decision. But the switch from CNA to EMT (and later AEMT) likely wouldn’t have happened if it wasn’t for her twin sister Sara Holloway.

“I saw how much my sister enjoyed her job and liked working for Hamilton County EMS, so I decided that was my next goal,” says Kera. “I heard stories from her coworkers about how wonderful she was to work with, and that inspired me to do my best because I want to be someone people want to work with and trust to do a good job.”

Although it was Sara’s successful career as a paramedic that ultimately pushed Kera to become an EMT, the duo has quite a number of first responders in their family. In addition to a dad who is a current Hamilton County Sheriff’s Deputy and a stepmom who retired from the Red Bank Police Department, Sara’s husband is also a homicide detective with the Chattanooga Police Department and a pilot for the Army National Guard.

“Having family who know what you see and go through – the stresses and joyful moments – and can relate or offer support is very comforting,” says Sara. “It also makes for very interesting topics at the dinner table.”

When asked why they both ultimately decided to answer the call of service, Sara and Kera both note that there is something special about being able to show up on people’s worst days and help make things a little better. “I love being able to help people. You never know what the shift will have in store for you. Every day and every call is different,” says Kera. “You get to be out in the community helping – even if it’s just holding someone’s hand and telling them things will be okay.”

Even though having a career in first response has its rewarding moments, it’s not without its fair share of challenges too. For Kera, one of the top trials of being an EMT is the time spent away from family. Saving lives is an around-the-clock job, and it’s not unusual for Kera or Sara to miss a birthday or holiday celebration, but the difficulties don’t stop there. “The emotional toll the job takes on you is the biggest challenge for me,” Sara chimes in. “On some shifts you run calls non-stop and are faced with everything from minor illnesses and injuries to life-or-death situations where you have to make decisions quickly and accurately. It puts a lot of stress on responders to not only be proficient in their skills but also to be the calm in the storm.”

Luckily, the sisters have each other and their other family members to lean on for support when needed. This ability to connect over shared experiences allows them to keep showing up for their community and a profession that they both love so much. “Seeing my sister come into this field with as much compassion and excitement as I have has been so humbling,” adds Sara. “The year she went through AEMT school, Kera was working full time on the ambulance, going to school full time, working through clinicals, and raising her two daughters. She keeps pushing through and accomplishing every goal she sets for herself, and I’m incredibly proud.”

roebuck brothersAlec Roebuck & Erickson Roebuck

Photo by Trevor Long

Left: Patrol Officer Erickson Roebuck

Right: Patrol Officer Alec Roebuck

While brothers Alec and Erickson Roebuck haven’t always lived in the same city, their careers have taken them on similar paths. After high school, Alec joined the Air Force while Erickson entered the Marine Corps. Serving in the armed forces solidified each brother’s desire to work in service and led them to enter the same police academy in 2020.

Now both patrol officers with the Chattanooga Police Department, Alec and Erickson join their father, uncle, and oldest brother in the field of law enforcement. “Having that extra layer of shared experiences makes me feel even closer to my family than I already did,” says Alec, adding, “It’s nice knowing that there are so many people I can talk to who have all ‘been there, done that,’ so to speak.”

Alec and Erickson have always been close and get to build their bond as they work the same shifts in neighboring districts. They both speak highly of each other, Alec saying his brother inspires him to do better and be better, while Erickson praises Alec’s “unwavering and continual dedication to the community.”

One of the most difficult parts of being a first responder is what Erickson describes as the “emotional whiplash” of the range in service calls. “You never know what’s waiting for you at the next call and whether it will be overwhelmingly intense or exceptionally ordinary,” elaborates Alec. “People only call 911 when something has gone terribly wrong. Being able to answer that call and help someone through the worst day of their life is a feeling so rewarding I can scarcely put it into words.”

Erickson shares one call in particular that shaped how he approaches his job today. While field training, he had to make contact with a family who had lost a loved one – a task he had never done before. Unsure how to approach, Erickson watched as his colleagues embraced the family members and offered their condolences. “These officers taught me that policing is much more than questions or paperwork,” he says. “Oftentimes, policing is just offering someone a small bit of comfort during difficult times. This lesson has always remained with me.”

These meaningful moments of human connection are some of Alec’s favorites, whether it’s “a chance to shoot some hoops with the kids in my district, have a conversation with a resident on their porch, or just spread a positive influence in my community.”

Erickson offers a word of gratitude to his fellow first responders: “I would like to take a moment to thank all Chattanooga Police officers, members of the Chattanooga Fire Department, and members of Emergency Medical Services for their unwavering and selfless efforts to improve the lives of those who live in the city of Chattanooga.”

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rose brothers

Evan Rose & Dusty Rose

Photo by Leah Sullivan

Left: Captain Dusty Rose

Right: Captain Evan Rose

Evan and Dusty Rose never imagined they’d be serving alongside each other in their hometown of Chattanooga, Tennessee, but today, the brothers wouldn’t have it any other way. Joining the Chattanooga Fire Department (CFD) meant carrying on the legacy of their late father, who had served there for 27 years. Having grown up with the example of their father and their mother, a retired trauma nurse, the brothers are well-acquainted with the field of first response. “My brother and I come by it naturally,” says Dusty. “It’s in our blood, so to say.”

For Evan, firefighting has “always been in my heart and the back of my mind.” Now in his 23rd year as a firefighter, he works with both the CFD and Red Bank Fire Department. “It’s cliché, but I really do love helping people. Whether it’s helping out people in the worst time of their lives or if it’s simply mentoring and training the next generation of firefighters,” says Evan.

Concluding his service with the Coast Guard, Dusty joined CFD followed by Evan a year later. From fond childhood memories spent with his father’s colleagues at the fire station to working with a crew he enjoys, Dusty’s firefighting family extends beyond literal relatives. “Even after all this time, I still look forward to going to work every day and serving alongside a group of my extended ‘family,’” he shares.

As captains, both brothers are in charge of their respective fire companies downtown, which Evan jokes creates a bit of sibling rivalry. “We don’t always do things the same way, but we have the same goal in mind when it comes to taking care of our crews and how we handle situations,” he adds. Dusty admires Evan’s passion for firefighting, pointing out, “My brother absolutely loves what he does, and anyone who spends five minutes with him would tell you the same thing … If I can pull off half of his achievements, I’ll always have a path toward success.”

Being a firefighter can involve high-stress and fast-paced moments that Evan says often require firefighters to think quick and be a “jack of all trades.” Dusty adds, “They always call the fire department, even when they don’t know who else to call, and I really love that because whatever is wrong, they expect and trust us to come and fix it.”

The brothers agree that as first responders, prioritizing mental health is paramount. From therapy and support systems to growing resources at the local and state levels, spaces exist for first responders to process the traumatic situations they encounter on the job – something Evan and Dusty are grateful for. Having family in the same field provides each brother with understanding, encouragement, laughter, and a built-in support system that will always have their back.

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