SULLIVAN, Ind. (WTHI) - It's an annual event but Sullivan's National Night Out took on a special meaning this year.
Before the festivities began Friday evening, people bowed their heads to remember Terre Haute Police Officer Rob Pitts and Hymera-Jackson Fire Chief Clay Shidler. Both Pitts and Shidler were longtime supporters of National Night Out.
Sullivan County Sheriff Clark Cottom says, "Rob with the Terre Haute city police SWAT team was here every year to put on demonstrations for the kids. Clay Shidler was here every year organizing the fire trucks, the EMS."
Officer Pitts was gunned down in May. Chief Shidler died after a car accident in July.
Sheriff Cottom says, "Well, certainly Rob was tragically cut down and, you know, it just tore our hearts out when that happened. Just a few months later we lost Clay and, you know, a lot of folks don't know, but Clay's death was actually attributed to in the line of duty as he had been out the night before on a rescue run very, very late into the night and got little to no sleep before he went to work so we know that that added stress played a role in his death."
Officer Pitts' patrol car was parked next to another vehicle Chief Shidler was instrumental in securing for the county. Before he died, Shidler got a grant to buy an all-terrain vehicle to be used for rescue and fire operations in remote locations.
Sheriff Cottom says, "Actually, the very day that he died he had received some pictures of it and was spreading those pictures around to other coworkers showing them the UTV. He was very, very proud of the machine that's here today."
The chief's brother and fellow firefighter says the vehicle is a testament to Shidler's dedication and example of his legacy.
Estel Shidler says, "He always kept saying, 'I want to see it through, I want to see it through, I'm going to see it through.' When we got it we took it to the cemetery just so he could finish the work."
An empty table with chairs tipped down was also set for the men to show while they may not be here in body, they are in spirit. People could pay their respects by visiting the table and the vehicles on display.
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