Leibelts honored at Red Cross 2019 Hometown Heroes celebration
The American Red Cross held its annual Hometown Heroes celebration on March 28 at the Wenatchee Convention Center. Grant County Fire District 3 Deputy Chief of Operations Tony Leibelt and his wife, Carol, were among the honorees.
The Leibelts received their awards for the remarkable help they provided after the Thanksgiving 2018 University of Washington bus accident near George. It was an unexpected, large-scale incident that required quick action to tend to the injured from a bus that rolled over and to get everyone indoors, out of the bad weather. Considering there were 325 people in the caravan of buses involved, it was no simple matter to coordinate.
Quincy School District Superintendent John Boyd nominated the couple for the Red Cross award because “they are just humble, great people who have a service mindset. Their story is compelling also because it was a husband and wife team.”
A team they were, most certainly. While Tony worked at the scene of the accident, arranging care and transportation, Carol hurried to prepare George Elementary School, where she is the head custodian, to receive victims and the hundreds of other people from the bus caravan. She heated up the premises and prepared areas for tending to the injured and for others to stay.
Tony Leibelt noted at one point that he “doesn’t feel hero-worthy.” What is a hero, then? According to www.dictionary.com, a hero is “a person who, in the opinion of others, has special achievements, abilities, or personal qualities and is regarded as a role model or ideal.” It seems the Leibelts fit that description quite well.
On the evening of March 28, after receiving their awards, the Leibelts posed for photos and chatted with other attendees, enjoying deserts provided for the occasion.
“I feel relaxed and proud,” Carol said as she was holding a gift of a potted fuchsia plant with a small piggy toy in the middle of it. “People at the school know about my affinity for pigs,” she explained about the little stuffed mascot. “I have worked at the school for 25 years, so I know everyone – I see the children of some of the former students these days.”
As for the evening of the accident, Carol was impressed by the calmness and care the students showed each other amidst the shock. They also left the school in perfect order, “as if they hadn’t been there at all,” Carol said.
Tony Leibelt stated that “the award doesn’t change anything. I’ll go back to work as usual.”
Tony remembers one small detail during the accident response that made a big difference: the lack of a pen.
“I put on my work pants but not the rest of my work uniform when I received the call,” he said, referring to the night of the bus rollover. “When I was at the scene, I realized I didn’t have a pen. I needed one to keep track of the injured and other things. I did manage to locate one, eventually.”
Without a pen, without forewarning, the Leibelts stepped up to do what was needed in a disaster – it seemed to come naturally for them. They can be called role models – or heroes, in other words.
By Jaana Hatton, For the Post-Register