A quick response to protect the lives of students has garnered state recognition for one Cumberland County School Resource Officer.
Pleasant Hill Elementary School SRO Anthony Justice has been awarded Tennessee School Resource Officer’s Association President’s Award for his response during the April 8 tornado. Justice said in that moment he knew to take control of the situation, even though it was something he had never experienced before that day.
“You’ve got to react slow and you’ve got to breathe, that’s one of the main things,” Justice said. “And just stay calm, because if I freak out then everybody else is going to freak out. So the calmer I am, the calmer everybody else is going to be.”
Justice said the kids reaction shifted quickly, going from a state of confusion to sheer terror in a moment. Justice said just because the weather passed, his concern for the situation did not.
“You go from focusing on making sure everybody’s in the building and everybody’s safe,” Justice said. “To checking on everybody and making sure all the students are okay and go into trying to calm everybody down at that point.”
Justice said making it through the tornado with everyone, brought them all closer together through this shared experience.
Justice said he was surprised and thrilled to be given the President’s Award for his actions. However, he said recognition is not a reason he ever went into this line of work.
“I don’t need the recognition, I love my job,” Justice said. “I wouldn’t do it any other way.”
The Pleasant Hill Community was the hardest hit by April’s EF-0 tornado. The school did take structural damage on its second story, with the roof and three classrooms being affected.