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  1. Opinion

I was at the Skyway disaster. I still remember it. | Letters

Here’s what readers are saying in Tuesday’s letters to the editor.

More stories to tell about Skyway

In response to: Detachment gave way to the grim reality | Perspective, May 10

I was reading the story about the 40th anniversary of the Sunshine Skyway disaster. There are more stories to tell. I was there. I was a 23-year-old EMS supervisor at SAS Ambulance, the predecessor to Sunstar. My dad, Barry Mogil, was the vice president and general manager. We were some of the first to arrive at the top of the bridge as Paul Hornbuckle was heading back to his Buick to retrieve his golf clubs, and we coaxed him back away from the car, 14 inches from the edge. We could see the Greyhound bus, upside down in the water and the bodies floating up. We could see the small pick-up on the bow of the Summit Venture and later that day, saw that driver alive and well at St Anthony’s Hospital.

Steve Mogil, St. Petersburg

Let’s not make the same mistake

In response to: The hurricane season is coming | Letters, April 29

Hurricane Dennis swirls over the gulf in 2005, an active season following the year Florida was hit by a record four hurricanes.

In three short weeks, we enter hurricane season. Given the experiences of Puerto Rico, the Florida Panhandle, and COVID-19, we need to face the fact that federal assistance may be sporadic, slow, or even non-existent, with states and localities left to fend for themselves. Florida seemed slow to grasp that. The initial response was ragged at best, lacking and confusing, at worst. Most worrisome was the discovery that our public health system had been decimated in recent years. Now is the time for the state to make sure we are not as ill-prepared for the next disaster.

Stephen Phillips, St. Petersburg

Heroes were once students

Colleges trained front-line workers

Medical workers at Jackson Memorial Hospital transport packages of freshly made meals made by Via Emilia 9 restaurant for the workers as part of the Frontline Foods Miami initiative in partnership with Chef Jose Andres' non-profit organization World Central Kitchen, during the new coronavirus pandemic, April 13, 2020, in Miami. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky) [LYNNE SLADKY | AP]

Since Gov. Ron DeSantis declared a state of emergency for COVID-19, we have watched many heroes on the news, heard people cheering from their balconies, and watched parades of vehicles to uplift these heroes. These heroes are our front-line workers, and before they were on the front lines, they were students, earning the degrees and credentials necessary to serve us all.

At the Florida College System, we educate and train these essential service employees. On behalf of the FCS Council of Presidents, I can say that preparing those men and women to serve our communities is one of our biggest honors.

The college system is Florida’s workforce engine in all areas, particularly in the areas of health care and first responders. That’s evident when you look at the numbers of front-line workers who graduate each year. The number of graduates from 2018-2019: 8,271 nurses and related health-care careers; 3,846 EMTs and related careers; 327 in law enforcement; and 1,104 firefighters.

The future is bright. The college system had 35,083 of these heroes who enrolled in 2018-2019 to be trained for success. These students and their families trust our colleges and what we stand for. Despite trying times, the college system remains accessible, convenient, affordable, and most importantly, we remain committed to training tomorrow’s brave heroes.

Yesterday, today, and forever we honor our front-line workers. They were Florida’s heroes before COVID-19 and will remain Florida’s heroes after this pandemic. To the thousands of graduates who choose to enter these critical fields each year from our colleges, we are very proud and appreciative of you. We thank you for your incredible service. Stay strong.

Jim Murdaugh

The writer is the president of Tallahassee Community College and chair of the Florida College System Council of Presidents.