Just days before next week’s one-year anniversary of the death of one of their own, DeKalb County firefighters returned to Hall County to say thank you to the local firefighters who recovered his body from Lake Lanier.
DeKalb Fire Chief Darnell Fullum was joined by a large contingent of his firemen for a presentation of a plaque to Hall County Fire Chief Jeff Hood on Thursday morning. The body of Jason “Mookie” Blalock, 37, was recovered from Lake Lanier on April 28, 2016.
“We’ve been wanting to do this for a time, and I think it is so appropriate that it is so close to the actual recovery of Mookie,” Fullum said. “We’re experiencing it as we come up on the one-year anniversary. He was a young man, so we lost him too soon. Day in and day out his crew still comes and works, and the memory is still there.”
Blalock, who lived in Buford, was last seen at a party near Sunset Cove at Lake Lanier a few days before his body was found.
Fullum remembered calling Hood for help after Blalock was reported missing. He said he and Hood had known each other for more than three decades.
“When I called him that morning, I knew I was calling someone who was going to do what was necessary,” he said. “I figured he would probably drop whatever he was doing.
“He immediately said, ‘I’ve got it; we’ve got it. I’ll call you back and let you know what’s going on.’ And that’s exactly what he did,” Fullum said of the conversation with the Hall County fire chief. “I had a crew that was chomping at the bit to get up here. I had to let them know that, ‘Look, they’re up there taking care of it. I trust them that they’re going to give the proper respect.’ We’re just here to say thank you, chief, and to Hall County for what you did.”
DeKalb Capt. Josh Miller noted that after Blalock’s body was found, Hall County firefighters allowed their DeKalb counterparts to take his body off the boat to a waiting vehicle.
“I know it meant a lot to us,” Miller said. “We all know you try to keep everybody else away from that stuff.”
Hood said he felt offering the DeKalb crew the opportunity to carry the body off the boat was important.
“No matter where the call is at, irregardless of jurisdiction, we do the same work,” he said, adding that the gesture was was “part of the healing process for them to get through this difficult time.”
The plaque was a cutout of the DeKalb Station 24 patch. An engraved plaque thanked Hall County “for your tremendous support during the difficult time of losing one of our brothers.”
Hood said Thursday’s presentation was special because of the bond between firefighters.
“We know it was appreciated, but for them to come back and present our crew with that plaque to show their appreciation in a formal way, it’s a class act,” Hood said. “(Recovering) anybody is challenging, but when it is one of our brothers or sisters, it’s very difficult. It takes it to another level. It’s hard to describe and is something the average person can’t understand. It’s emotionally challenging. Physically it’s a different game.”