Tuesday May 11th.
Bart picked me up at 4 am and together we drove to Brussels Intl. Airport. We caught the 7 am flight to London. We reduced the pain of the 4-hour stopover with a couple of English pints. During the flight to Atlanta we could enjoy the beautiful weather and got a great Arial view of New York, Philadelphia and Washington DC. We arrived ½ hour early in Atlanta so we had plenty of time to pick up the rental car and drive to our hotel in Doraville. After a burger and a Budweiser it was time to hit the sack after a tiring travel day.
Wednesday May 12th.
Tried to call Chief Warthen at 9 am, but he was in a meeting until 1 pm.
So we used this morning to scout out the downtown area. After a visit to The Underground, we ate lunch at Hooters. After lunch, we went to the City Hall office and had our meeting with Chief Warthen. We discussed our program until it was time to head back to the Airport to pick up Paul and the rest of the group. Back at the hotel in Doraville we took a quick dip in the pool, had dinner at Burger King and went to bed early.
Thursday May 13th.
After a good night sleep it’s time for our first American breakfast. At 9 am we leave for downtown using Interstate 85. We have an appointment with Chief Warthen at the Fire Department HQ. After a quick explanation on how the department operates we all go to Station 1 were we wait until we get the final stations that are selected for our visit. They are all located in a 20-mile radius from downtown. Willy (FD Kaprijke) and myself are stationed in Station 10. This is one of the bigger stations. It houses an engine, a ladder truck, a light wagon and the Battalions chiefs’ vehicle. We only were there for a few minutes when the first call came in. It was a structure fire with flames going thru the roof. We just loved it.
They had a BBQ for dinner that night. Mmmmmm…….
We enjoyed the lovely evening and hoped for a busy night.
Friday May 14th
It wasn’t busy that night, and after a cup of coffee and a couple of donuts we had to leave Station 10 at 9 am for the groups meeting at Station 1.
First we went to visit the State Capitol and then had lunch at Hooters (great chicken wings). In the afternoon we paid a visit to the 911 – Dispatch center and had a look at the training facility. Then we went to a local uniform shop were we got a few t-shirts and patches. By 6 pm we were all back at the stations, ready to wait for the next call.
Saturday May 15th
This was a ride – along day. We all stayed in the stations and could ride along on any call that came in. We sure had a busy day and got calls for a serious car accident, a brushfire, a shooting and a couple of medical calls.
Sunday May 16th
This morning the group convened again at station 1 from where we walked to the CNN building. We took the CNN tour, which showed us all the famous studios, and we took the time to do some shopping in the CNN shop. At 11 am we left for Six Flags, a beautiful rollercoasterpark, were we enjoyed the death defying rides in this typical American environment. On the way back, we ate lunch at a Chinese restaurant were we enjoyed the « All you can eat – buffet ». By 8 pm we were all back in the stations for another night of ride – along.
Monday May 17th
We didn’t get much sleep that night but we had to be at Station 1 by 9 am. This morning we had a planned meeting with the Fire chief of Atlanta and his staff. We took the opportunity to hand out a couple of gifts and thank the department for the great reception they gave us. Capt Shinkle of station 1 was made honorary member of our organization.
That afternoon we visited the Hartsfield airport Fire Station. It was a special Kodak moment because of what we were shown there. The Jaguar made a very special impression on us, and it was shown to us, even though it was still on evaluation and was hidden for most viewers.
That evening the group split up, some of them got to see a base ball game, the others spent the night at the Underground (Hooters again)
Tuesday May 18th
Another Ride along day and another chance for us to observe the working methods of our American colleagues. Just being able to spend a day with them and talk about our ways of life was a beautiful experience for the both of us.
Wednesday May 19th
This is the morning to say goodbye. We had breakfast together with Capt Shinkle and his sons. A couple of presents were exchanged and a few group photos were shot. We left for Huntsville that day. Visiting the Space Center, we got a good look on the past and the future of the American Space program. A bus tour brought us into the Nasa facility were we could observe the booster test area and we got to see a module of the ISS (International Space Station), being prepared for a 2001 space launch. That night we had a pizza at Pizza Hut, and we met Valère Miserèz, a friend of Paul, who lives in Huntsville.
Thursday May 20th
The first night for some of us, that we could sleep through without being awakened by some call. So everybody was ready to continue our trip in to Tennessee. In the morning, we visited the Jack Daniels Brewery.
Only to be sorry that this is a dry county, so we could only have a smell at the heavenly brew. It still was a magnificent tour, and the old fire truck in the back yard got our special attention. By noon we arrived in Chattanooga, a train lovers paradise. The area around the train station is completely restored into a hotel and a very good place to hang around. After a very nice ice cream we headed for the Smokey Mountains for our hotel in Pigeon Forge. We can relax now and take a stroll through the streets.
Friday May 21th.
This morning has been set aside for shopping. A big factory store shopping center should have something for everybody. We realize of course that from now on there will be less space in the rental cars. In the afternoon we split up again. Paul and Willy go to Dollywood and the rest of the group take a nature walk thru the Smokey Mountains. That night we have a little party in the hotel rooms.
Saturday May 22nd.
After a big breakfast we have a long trip ahead, which will bring us back to Atlanta. It will take us through the Smokey Mountains, into the Cherokee Indian reservation. A couple of great views on the way are worth a photo. In the early evening we arrive back in Doraville, where we meet some old friends from Jacksonville. Indeed, John, Sweetie and JB came to Atlanta and will join us that evening to go to the laser show at the Stone Mountain Park.
Sunday May 23rd
After our last night on American soil, we head back to downtown Atlanta for a visit to the Martin Luther King memorial and The World of Coca Cola. After that, its time to say goodbye to our friends from Jacksonville and head back to airport. We return the rental cars and check in our luggage at the terminal. It’s time to spend our last dollars on a few Budweiser’s and prepare for the long flight home. The trip was exhausting and there was a lot less activity than during the flight over.
Monday May 24th
The long flight brings us all back to Brussels Intl. Airport where the family is waiting for us. Everybody is clear about the experience from the last 12 days, it was a wonderful experience and they are all ready to pack and leave again.
Written By Van Acker Filip – FD Zelzate
Translated by Paul Vanlook – Sharon K. Banwell