The Greg Gordon Story
From the book, Stories of Pensacola’s Finest, available on Amazon or directly from Mike Simmons.
What does a hero look like? Have you ever wondered that? In the movies, it is usually the good-looking, smiling, confident guy that everyone likes. We all know that is not always the case, but sometimes it is.
Greg Gordon is one of those guys that you want to like. When you see Greg, you gotta smile. He does that to you. He is usually smiling back. On top of that, he has those Hollywood looks – yep, he is what you think a hero is supposed to look like. The best part is…you want him to be a hero. You just like him!
Greg was born in Michigan. As a child growing up, he always wanted to be a police officer. He wanted to help people and he wanted to give traffic tickets! So, it was not surprise to anyone when he joined the Pensacola Police Department.
The job fit like a glove! Greg excelled in every assignment. In great physical shape, he was one of the fastest officers the department has ever had. As a bicycle officer, he excelled in police biking maneuvers. During police bike demonstrations, Greg would not only ride his bicycle down a flight of stairs but turn around and ride it back up – smiling the whole way!
His humble attitude rounded him out. He was one of those guys who could put someone in jail and write them a ticket and they would thank him for it! Unbelievable!
Thirteen years ago today, On July 3, 2009, Greg had just finished a report and was driving to the police headquarters when he heard a call go out. The dispatcher explained that someone had called 911 from 410 E. Hatton Street but didn’t say anything. Not uncommon. Was it a kid that was playing? Was it a game being played by children? Was it an accidental call from an adult? Or…was it a true emergency? He couldn’t tell, so, being close, he decided he would respond.
“Headquarters, I’m enroute,” Greg said over the radio. He sped up a little. When he rounded the corner, the routine call immediately became unusual. The entire house was on fire! Black smoke billowed out of the windows.
When Greg got out of the police car, he noticed a crowd of onlookers in the road. They were staring at the inferno and at the newly arrived officer. Greg figured the house must be vacant, or at least the occupants were out, but he asked anyway.
“Is anyone inside?”
One onlooker said “Probably. Leroy Lett lives there. His truck is there, which means he usually is.”
Greg wrestled with himself, “Should I go in? If no one is inside, I could get burned or overcome with smoke – for no reason. On the other hand, what if someone is inside and can’t get out?”
Staying true to his calling, Greg decided to risk it and look. He rushed up to the front door and kicked it open. He was not expecting what happened next. A wall of thick black noxious smoke hit him in the face. Oxygen was depleted. All he could breathe were fumes. He dropped to the floor where the air was at least breathable.
The controlled fires shown on television and in the movies show frightening flames that are conveniently to the side of the objective the hero is headed for. In real life, two facts must be dealt with – heavy black poisonous fumes and extreme heat. Both were present when Greg opened the front door. But, above the roar of the fire, Greg heard what he thought was labored breathing. He called – no answer. Was it just his imagination? Maybe the risk was too great. After all, no one would expect him to go into…this!
But what if it was a person breathing? What if they couldn’t answer? Again, he decided to try. On his hands and knees, he crawled into the blazing furnace – the heat and smoke affecting his every move.
Not able to see anything, Greg felt a man’s body. He had to get him out, and in a hurry. Neither he nor the victim would last long. He started to pull the man out the way he came in, but soon realized another obstacle. This guy was huge! He would have to pull it out by the clothing – except he only had his underwear on. Greg would have to pull the man by his sweating, slippery arm while crawling out himself, and he didn’t have much time. The smoke was already taking its toll. Greg began coughing and trying to catch his breath. But he continued.
Dragging a slippery, 250-pound man through the living room in the middle of a deadly house fire without the help of clothing to hold onto takes a lot of strength. Greg was in great physical shape, but could he do this? Nothing else to do but to try.
When he finally got to the front door, Greg was met by Sgt. Robert Hurst. Together, they got the victim onto the front lawn. They began life-saving efforts until Emergency Medical Services arrived and took over. Mr. Lett was trying to breathe and was foaming at the mouth. He had soot, ash and burns all over his body and his fate was still not determined. Sgt. Hurst, not knowing if others were inside, went to the back of the house where he might be able to get in. But the heat and smoke were too intense. He decided that nothing else could be done.
Exhausted, Sgt. Hurst looked for Greg. He found him a few yards away coughing and struggling to breathe. In payment for what he put his body through, he was suffering from smoke inhalation, a deadly condition. His face and uniform were covered in soot and ash, and he had a cut on his arm. Sgt. Hurst ordered Greg to go to the hospital, which he did.
Happily, both Mr. Leroy Lett and Officer Gordon fully recovered.
In a later interview with the Pensacola News Journal’s Sean Dugas, Leroy Lett explained his hopeless predicament: “I tried to unlock the back door to escape but couldn’t. Then my lungs quit. I knew I was finished. I was through, so I started talking to God.” With no hope of getting out alive, Mr. Lett did the only thing he could think of – to make a hopeless attempt to try to crawl. Just as he was giving up, Greg Gordon appeared.
“God used him as an angel. I called to the Almighty and He answered me,” recalled Mr. Lett. Greg, whose strength felt supernatural to Mr. Lett, grabbed him and pulled him to safety, saving the citizen’s life.
Both men recovered fully. From the hospital, Greg was sent home. Sgt. Hurst, amazed at the ability of his officer, investigated. He viewed the scene and spoke with others present. Then he completed his report, including a recommendation for Officer Gordon to receive recognition for his feat.
On January 7, 2010, Officer Greg Gordon was awarded the Pensacola Police Department’s highest award – the Gold Medal of Valor. He was also awarded the National Medal of Valor from the U. S. Department of Justice, the Law Enforcement Commendation Medal from the Pensacola Chapter Florida Society, Sons of the American Revolution, the Police Officer of the Year from the Veterans of Foreign Wars, Thomas F. Welch Post 706, his name was added to the Heroes Hall of Fame of the Police and Firemen’s Insurance Association. He was also recognized as a hero by the Carnegie Hero Fund Commission – only one of about 9000 in Canada and the United States awarded since 1904. He was also presented with a Certificate of Special Congressional Recognition by the United States Congress and Congressman Jeff Miller.
So, in case you were wondering…a hero looks like Greg Gordon.