ATLANTA — Sometimes, doing your job and doing it well could get you an invitation to the White House for a meeting with the president.
That’s what happened to Kendell McKoy, a trooper with the Georgia State Patrol, last month.
On March 30 at about 6 p.m., with rush-hour traffic in full swing around the Atlanta Metro area, McKoy was working an accident on the southbound lanes of Interstate 85 with two other troopers. As the trio was wrapping up the accident, a call came in that the northbound side of the I-85 bridge was on fire.
“We looked but couldn’t see anything around the bend,” McKoy said. “But when we got ourselves on the northbound side, began moving past the stopped vehicles and got around that bend, we could see the thick, black smoke.”
The first task for McKoy and his two partners, since they were the first on the scene, was to begin getting motorists safely off the bridge. That task took on a more urgent need when reports started coming in that a portion of the bridge had collapsed.
“We had to divert traffic quickly,” McKoy said. “Thankfully, we were able to do that before anything tragic took place.”
The cause of the fire that started remains under investigation, though at least one theory involves a homeless man who reportedly set a box in a shopping cart on fire and rolled it under the bridge where a number of pipes are located.
“I’m not so sure that’s how it happened, but time will tell,” McKoy said.
Within a week of the incident, members of the Atlanta Fire Department, Atlanta Police Department, Georgia State Patrol and others who worked the scene were invited to the White House to be recognized by President Donald Trump.
On April 13, the group arrived for a two-day visit — during which they were given a tour of the White House and its grounds, bowled at the Truman Bowling Alley and met with Trump in the Oval Office, which was televised.
“The president praised our efforts on that bridge, where there were no injuries,” McKoy said. “I’d say the highlight for me was meeting the president in the Oval Office and being on TV with him. I won’t forget that for a long time.”
McKoy said he knew from the time he was 8 or 9 years old that he wanted to be in law enforcement. After his graduation from Tar Heel High School in 1996, he began to make that dream a reality.
“I had always hoped it would be in North Carolina, but it’s worked out pretty well in Georgia,” said McKoy, who has been with the Georgia State patrol for about five years.
It’s also gotten him a handshake and praise from the president for a job well done.
W. Curt Vincent can be reached by calling 910-862-4163.