Dion White, chief executive officer of the Center for Life Resources, has told the story many times of the morning of Sept. 6, 2016.

The 4 a.m. phone call.

The rush out the door.

The frantic drive toward Janie Clements Industries (JCI), which the Center for Life Resources operates.

White retold the story of the fire that devastated JCI Tuesday afternoon at the Center for Life Resources (CFLR) as he introduced the first of three recipients of the 2019 Wall of Honor award.

The recipients were the Brownwood Fire Department, Brownwood Fire Marshal Buddy Preston and the Brownwood Bulletin.

CFLR started the Wall of Honor awards in 2012. The award is intended to recognize the individuals and organizations who have made a significant impact on the center’s services and those it serves, White said.

“As I was driving down FM 2126, I remember distinctively looking up and seeing kind of an orange hue in the night sky, like an orange glow, and my heart just stopped … plummeted. And I knew at that moment, it was bad,” White said.

“I remember just standing there watching the fire … we could see the flames coming out the top of the roof. And that feeling is just so surreal.”

White said he thought of “all these folks who receive services” at JCI.

“Folks with autism, folks with with mental retardation. Folks in wheelchairs. Folks who don’t have anybody else in their lives … that’s their family,” White said.

He pointed to a group of blue-uniformed firefighters seated among guests in the CFLR’s meeting room.

“And I remember looking over there and then within a few seconds I looked down and I see you all,” White said.

“I see the firemen working. I see the fire trucks. I see you all working with pinpoint concentration. It was just an amazing thing to watch the firemen. There was constant communication and it’s like everybody knew there was a job that has to be done and they were just working in unison, almost like ants …”

White said it was obvious that the firefighters’ work represented hours of training, years of service “and a solid goal that the department wanted to accomplish that night. And during those moments, as we worried about the future of JCI, by seeing you all working, it provided hope to myself and those around me,” White said.

The chief executive officer said a new Avengers movie will be out soon. White named some of the superheroes who have “super powers and are able to do great feats of bravery. They’re nothing compared to the heroes who are in this room this very day. 

“They place themselves in harm’s way on a moment’s notice to save lives, to prevent future harm to the surrounding area, and more importantly they provide hope during a time of devastation.”

Firefighters respond to 2,300 calls each year and “whatever the community needs — you all are the heroes,” White told the firefighters. 

White turned his remarks to Preston, the veteran fire marshal, who White described as a “constant partner” with CFLR. 

Preston works closely with the center staff to make sure facilities and homes under CFLR’s care are safe.

“You are one of the most positive people I have ever met,” White told Preston.

Preston was “a very critical friend and partner” as JCI was rebuilt after the fire, White said.

Media is important for the center, which is White said has been “the best kept secret in town. I don’t want it to be that way. The Brownwood Bulletin has always been a fair and valued member to help get out story  out to the community. We appreciate the desire to get the fact’s straight.”