LMPD :: Louisville Metro Police Department

Police top firefighters in 9/11 tribute game


David Padgett was getting ready for school as a high school junior in Reno, Nev., when the first plane hit the World Trade Center six years ago yesterday.

The efforts of emergency responders following the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks left lasting impressions in his mind and in the minds of others nationwide.

"It really showed you how much they do for us," said Padgett, now a senior captain on the University of Louisville basketball team.

Padgett and the rest of the Cardinals were among the crowd that nearly packed Knights Hall at Bellarmine University for the fifth annual Patriot Game.

The Patriot Game features Louisville Metro Police officers versus firefighters from Louisville Fire & Rescue.

Metro Police Chief Robert White, who served for two decades as an officer in Washington, D.C., said he was heading up the Greensboro Police Department in North Carolina when the hijacked planes hit the World Trade Center in New York and the Pentagon in Washington.

"A part of me wished I was there to help with the response," White said in a halftime interview tonight.

The Patriot Game "helps to commemorate the men and women who lost their lives in 9/11," White said.

But the highly competitive game also gives one department bragging rights for the next year, he said.

"This is the tie-breaker," said a fired-up Fire Chief Greg Frederick shortly before his players took to the court. "There is a lot on the line here."

The question is which food — donuts or chili — better fuels a winning team, Frederick and White each joked.

Donuts won out this year as police came on strong in the third quarter and never looked back, after leading by only two points at the half.

The boys in blue beat the fire squad 77-57, giving police a 3-2 lead in the all-time series and the right to boast for the next year.

Firefighters had won the two previous games before last night's; police won the first two times the teams squared off.

But the event is more than a basketball game: In addition to honoring those who died during the 9/11 attacks, it also raises money for The Healing Place, a Louisville shelter for the homeless and addicted.

The event, sponsored by LG&E, raised more than $40,000 for The Healing Place, but ticket sales had yet to be figured, said Mike Joksimovic, co-chairman of the event.

While it is a game, the event is "not just a light tribute," said Rodney Brannon, vice president of programs at The Healing Place.

"We know the emotion tied to risking your life to save another," said Brannon, who served four years in the U.S. Navy.

Brannon's wife, Scheron, sang a stirring rendition of "The Star-Spangled Banner," before the game, and versions of "Lift Every Voice and Sing" and "God Bless America" during a halftime tribute.

Rodney Brannon, who came to The Healing Place in 1994, has been free from drugs and alcohol for 13 years.

All of the program's participants and peer mentors also were in attendance, except those who currently are in detoxification, Brannon said.

Charles Montgomery, 30, who joined the program for the second time and has been clean and sober for three months, worked as an usher in the section where family members of police officers sat.

The program has been "a tremendous help," said Montgomery, who lives in the Shawnee neighborhood and recently lost a friend, 29-year-old Jamar Payne, to homicide.

"I know that if I go back out there, drinking and drugging, I'm going to die one way or another," he said.