People of Darlington County: Meet Anna DeWitt
The best way to describe the life of Anna DeWitt is to borrow a quote from Retired SCTF-1 Chaplin Michael Bingham…”Enjoying the Journey.”
Anna DeWitt first started her career in Emergency Services in August of 1993 when she was hired by Darlington County Emergency Medical Services (EMS) as an Emergency Medical Technician. With her passion for emergency response and the people of Darlington County, it took only two short years for her to join the Darlington County Fire District and pass her state interior fire training in 1996. Also that year, Anna welcomed her daughter, Bethany Ann, into the world. If you ever meet Anna, you will learn that being a Mom is the one job she is the most proud of.
In 1997 Anna began a path in Technical Rescue that would impact her life in a way even she did not anticipate. This path started with Rope, Confined Space and Trench Rescue classes that quickly turned into Structural Collapse Level 1, Level 2, Level 3 at Texas A&M Engineering Extension Service (TEEX). Not being satisfied, Anna achieved ARC and Pipe welding courses from Florence Darlington Tech to give her a better foundation as she went further into her rescue career. In 2004, Anna was one of the original members of the S.C. Urban Search and Rescue program, Task Force 1. This is where she excelled to a Rescue Squad Officer in 2007 and began to truly settle in to the path she chose ten years earlier. As part of the State Search and Rescue Team, Anna was trained in and eventually instructed almost every kind of rescue discipline. Heavy Rigging and Metal Cutting, Advanced Swift Water Rescue, Tower Rescue, Agricultural Rescue and Crane Operator are just a few of the training courses in her educational profile. As of most recently, Anna interviewed and passed the entrance tests for the State Helicopter Aquatic Rescue Team (HART) in August of 2009. Being a rescue swimmer is a physically and mentally demanding position that Anna had aspired to be a part of. She always made sure she was in the top 2 of all the swimmers when it came time to semi-annual agility testing.
Anna has had an impressive deployment assignment during her tenure with the State Task Force. Her first large-scale response was one that will remain in the history books for our lifetime. In October of 2005 Anna deployed as a Rescue Squad Officer with SC-TF1 to the most devastated parts of southern Louisiana for more than five days. Her work there proved to herself and others that not only did she love this kind of work, she lived for it. As the years past Anna joined the team on regular annual training deployments around the state and even into the mountain’s of West Virginia; every one of them a challenge well accepted. Then came “Super Storm” Sandy in 2013, where Anna joined a 25-member Swift Water Rescue Team that the state deployed to Maryland ahead of the storm. She was assigned to one of the 6 swift water rescue strike teams that made more than 30 contact rescues just prior to hurricane landfall. During the 2015 statewide floods in South Carolina, Anna deployed with her helicopter rescue team (HART Bravo) and completed 28 helicopter hoist rescues as the Swift Water Teams assisted with over 250 contact water rescues. The HART Bravo Rescue team received a metal from Joint Chief, Four Star General Frank Grass, for their service; this was the second metal of service received from General Grass in 2015. The entire Task Force received multiple unit citations from Governor Haley for their brave and professional actions during these missions.
She truly loves what she does, that goes with out saying, but what you may not know is that Anna DeWitt is an avid runner. Sometime back in the year 2001 Anna said “I just felt like running…” and the rest is history. On average Anna runs 15 miles weekly for all kinds of reasons but like most runners she runs because she loves to push her physical limits.
Along with her fifteen years of running, Anna is a Board Certified Personal Trainer by the National Academy of Sports Medicine. She says this helps her better understand how the body works and therefore she is able to keep herself on track. She also uses this advanced level of training to help others who do not know where to start.
On September 11, 2015, Anna was out running the annual Fitness World Run Club 9.11 miles for 9/11 when she began to wonder who exactly it was she was running to remember. Everyone is familiar with the number 343 but who is familiar with the people behind the number? After the run she went home, looked up the first name on the list and dedicated her run in his memory. With such an unexpected response to the Facebook post, she went out the next day and ran for the second name on the list.
And that is how is all started; now over 190 runs into her journey she is still going strong. Anna started running 3 miles for each one of the 343 FDNY Firefighters lost on that day. She chooses to not only run but research and post detailed information about each firefighter. Everyday she and her viewers learn about a firefighter and his/her life. It’s something special, something that helps you remember to never forget. The runs have such a following now that a new separate Facebook page “3 Miles For” was created in March of 2015.
In December of 2015 Anna received a letter from the FDNY Fire Commissioner Daniel Nigro and the FDNY Chief of the Department James Leonard. Both the Commissioner and the Chief thanked Anna for her dedication and sent words of encouragement as she continues working towards her goal.
In March of this year, Anna decided to try and finish this challenge one year to the date of when she started. The decision was made that her final run would be in Charleston during the 9/11 Remembrance Walk. She will join an anticipated 3,000 firefighters walking 5 miles in full turnout gear to remember their fallen brothers and sisters. Unfortunately Anna lost two weeks of running due to her response to the SC Flooding in October of 2015 and another four weeks due to an unplanned surgery in November of 2015. Because of this six-week delay Anna has decided to walk/run to Charleston from her home in Darlington. By leaving on September 7, she will be able to complete 40 additional runs before the 9/11 Remembrance Walk. On Sunday September 11th Anna will begin the 343rd and final walk in memory of FDNY Paramedic Ricardo Quinn. What a fitting end to an incredible journey.