By William C. Sneed, Jr.
Cooper-Young resident William C. Sneed, Jr., has served the Memphis Fire Department for 45 years. In this column, he reflects on his long relationship with the job that has defined his life.
On the morning of November 16, 1952, I woke up in my mother’s arms looking up at this great big firefighter who I soon discovered was my father.
As time went on I saw men come to our home to help my father paint and fix up our house. In turn, I went with my father to help fix and paint another firefighter’s house. As I grew up, it didn’t take long for me to realize the bond these firefighters had between them. This is when I knew I wanted to be one of them.
On September 14, 1973, I became firefighter. I was initially assigned to Engine House 12 — one of the busiest fire stations at the time. A year later, I was transferred to Rescue One and quickly learned I was going to have to be on top of my game to keep working on the rescue truck, as it responded to the most critical rescue situations.
I became a paramedic with Memphis Fire in 1979 in just the second class of paramedics in the City of Memphis. The schedule at this time was 24-hour shift, every work day! I think this schedule played a role in my hair turning white and falling out.
Moving forward, I was again fortunate to be on the High-Rise Rescue Team, commonly referred to as a “dopes on the rope” since we would hang from extreme heights. This operation led us into an even more highly-trained group of firefighters — Special Operations. Special Operations included rope, confined space, technical rescue, trench, and shoring.
Not long after Special Operations was formed, 9/11 occurred and the Special Ops team was deployed to the Pentagon the following day. Just about every discipline was used at this event. It was an honor to be a part of the team and to be able to share our experiences of 9/11 in speaking events around town.
Hurricane Katrina gave us the next opportunity to aid the country in recovery. Because of the special conditions created by Hurricane Katrina, we had a great opportunity to learn about search and rescue using boats. I cannot tell you how many hurricanes we were deployed to since Katrina, the latest being Hurricane Harvey.
But the greatest experiences from my years with the Memphis Fire Department have revolved around watching my son, William C. Sneed, lll, become a firefighter. Will a third-generation firefighter with 15 years of service, is now a Lieutenant stationed at Rescue 2B. It was great to watch Will fill my and his grandfather’s boots.
The reason I share all this with you is because I retired from the Memphis Fire Department January 15, 2017, and, yes, that is 45 years. I wanted to thank everyone for the opportunity to serve the City of Memphis through the Memphis Fire Department in a job I enjoyed and loved.