The Overseers

July 2003 - July 2006


Ladies and Gentlemen of the AARS;

I cannot thank you enough for the honor bestowed upon me as Rescuer of the Third Quarter 2004. At this time, please allow me to properly acknowledge those who are responsible for me achieving this recognition.

First let me say, I ain't nobody. I'm no more or less than any other man or woman. Raised in a good Christian home, I was taught right from wrong at a very early age and that the true measure of a human being is not in what material things we acquire in this life but in what we do. But, knowing and doing are two different things.

I wish I could say I have always tried to do what is right, but by making bad decisions and running with the wrong crowd at an early age, I not only found myself on the road to Hell but oftimes leading the pack. Marriage and the birth of my first son changed this. That and the fact that most of us, as we get older, can't help but get wiser.

I've always been the guy who winced the most whenever I saw someone get hurt, I reckon "Old Yeller" will always bring a tear to my eye and because of this I've always shunned tragedy and circled the block rather than ride by an MVA. The death of my mother and then my father and the responsibility of caring for them at home as they both succumbed to cancer changed this. Having friends and being close to family means sharing in their tragedies and sorrows and so, I found myself withdrawing from folks, focusing on my immediate family only. With all the negative things in life I found myself becoming cynical and pessimistic about the world around me

But, as I stared into the void left behind by my parents, it hit me that there was no one to replace these good people and the others of their generation who are all too quickly slipping away. No one, that is, except folks like me. So I searched to find ways to fill their shoes. Then, one day, out of the blue, there came a knock at my door. A lady came by seeking a donation for LASAR.

Now having lived in Lillian since 1962 and having never heard of LASAR, I decided to check them out. I wondered who these people were who had moved into MY community which has grown so rapidly through the years. A community that has grown from just a few families who I knew to a community filled with thousands of strangers.

I wasn't particularly impressed with these LASAR folks, as I had not yet come to know them. Some of them were Yankees! But, I was impressed by their mission, so I and my sons joined and immediately began training. We accepted the fact that we would be called upon to do unpleasant things most folks can't do and so we began our journey with LASAR. But I must confess that every training session and mission I took on, was to me at this time, no more than an unpleasant but necessary task; not unlike changing the oil in my truck. I accepted assignments and missions knowing what I was doing was the right thing to do, but yet, in my heart, something was missing. You see, I was focusing on only the negative things in this world and there are far too many.

Then, I went to my first AARS meeting, which was the '03 Annual Conference and my experience there was no less than life altering. I'm sure y'all didn't notice me as I eased up on small groups of you folks from all over Alabama, but I couldn't keep myself from eavesdropping on your conversations. You see, it wasn't what you were saying that I was interested in, it was the way you were saying it. When I heard properly spoken southern English, which sadly is all but gone now in southern Baldwin County, I felt as though I had come home or made one of our family reunions in Cordova, Al. I was reminded of days gone by when I visited relatives during summer vacation and ran the roads of Childersburg, Sylacauga, and other towns too numerous to mention. I was reminded of a simpler time when I could not help but look at everything with youthful optimism and for that I thank you.

But, the most profound thing to occur to me there was when I heard the tragic yet triumphant stories of rescuers who responded to emergencies that involved their own family members. I was deeply moved and it was at this point that I had an epiphany. I suddenly understood what it truly meant to be one of you and a member of LASAR. The knowledge that there are so many of you wonderful folks in Alabama renewed my faith in humanity and gave me the inspiration to do the things for which I have been recognized. Please know that the greatest honor of my life will not be in any recognition I personally receive, but in being a member of the AARS and LASAR. For this, I will be forever indebted.


Cliff Barr
Land Captain

                                                                    I Slipped Into Their Shoes

   I had just hit the sack and closed my eyes after a hard day’s work when what often seems the inevitable happened. The phone rang.  As I hurried to answer it, I knew why I was being called at this late hour. I picked up the receiver and heard the words, "We have a mission."
  "Go ahead," I said.  
  They replied,  “There’s another person missing and presumed drowned.”
   I stepped into the doorway of my two sons' bedroom and shouted, "Water mission!"  They sprang from their beds and without instruction grabbed our gear and headed outside to hook our boat to our truck. We were ready in moments, and my wife hugged me as I headed out the door.
 "Good luck," she said.  I’d like to have told her I'd be back soon, but I knew that would be unrealistic.  We never know how long a mission will last, but one thing we know for sure is that we will be there as long as is necessary.  
   We pulled out onto the highway and pushing the speed limit, headed to the assigned staging area. We were the first to arrive on the scene and we launched our boat, preparing for what we knew would be a long night.
    The estuary we entered is vast, with miles of shoreline, and while we waited for our mobile command post and other members of our unit, we searched the surrounding shoreline with our spotlights. The search would continue for hours.
    As soon as he arrived, we took aboard our Land Captain with a thermal imager and set out to search the shoreline, hoping against the odds that this person had somehow made it to shore. A heat signature would have been easy to spot, but we looked to no avail.
   We received a radio transmission from our mobile command post, furnishing us with information as to where this person had last been seen, just south of a visible landmark. We headed that way.  
   Arriving in the general area, we saw the helicopter our commander had requested approaching. It was a welcome and impressive sight. The odds were now more strongly in our favor as the water in that location is quite shallow. The chopper’s brilliant searchlights brought daylight to the shoreline, and we watched as it began its search pattern.
In just a few minutes, it neared our location, stopped about a hundred feet from us, and bobbed up and down three times with its searchlight fixed on a spot a mere fifty feet from us. I knew they had found the victim.
   From all directions jet skis and boats began to move in. Buffeted by strong downdrafts from the chopper, we were unable to maneuver the boat any closer.
   Since the water was little more than waist deep, our Captain jumped in and soon located the submerged victim. With the assistance of a man who had arrived on a jet ski, we placed this young person's body in our boat and began the long ride back to the staging area.  
   Sitting at the bow of the boat, I looked down at this young person, who I had been told was just a teenager. I looked towards the stern. Through the darkness, I could just barely see my son who was piloting the boat, himself only seventeen at the time. It was at this point that I thought of the victim’s parents and I slipped into their shoes..
    What if it had been one of my sons?  Anguish and sorrow wrenched my gut and momentarily I lost control.  Tears welled up in my eyes.
    Stop for a moment and allow the everyday mundane things to slip from your mind. Think about your mother or father, wife or husband, brother or sister, son or daughter.  Allow yourself to let go of any petty grievances you may have against them and really and truly, fully feel how much you love them. Relish the thought of how fortunate you are to have them in your life.  It’s a wonderful feeling.  
     But now, think of those unfortunate parents and slip into their shoes. What if that had been your loved one?  Can you feel the sorrow and pain as you think of your loved one?  If you can, then you’ll know why I do what I do.  
    The members of our organization are volunteers. We are paid nothing. Our reward comes from knowing that we are able to help someone in need. While it is sad that this time we could not return this young person to their family alive and well, at least we had brought an end to their uncertainty.  
    It is unfortunate that all too often the media reports that “authorities” have recovered the body of a victim or that “authorities” have located a missing child or elderly person who was lost. Unless you are a volunteer or are associated with an emergency service organization, you probably think, as I once did, that your tax dollars have been hard at work. You couldn’t be more wrong.  
    Much of the time when you hear of such incidents, members of volunteer fire departments and volunteer search and rescue organizations have been involved. As individuals we do not seek recognition for what we do, but it is vital that these organizations’ efforts are recognized because we depend on donations from the public.  
    If you are someone who believes that the measure of a human being is not in what he has in this life but in what he does and you would like to live in a better world, please, join or support such an organization today. Everyone has something to offer. We hope to see you soon.

Cliff Barr

June 2005



It was a pleasure to meet Govenor Riley at the 2005 Alabama Association of Rescue Squads Annual Convention in Orange Beach, AL., where I thanked him not only for his letter of recognition but more importantly the inspiration it gave my sons. 

Published in the March 2006 edition of The Lillian

Published in the April 2006 edition of The Lillian

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