Dana Lawhorne, Sheriff of the City of Alexandria, VA, on the 1998 Woodrow Wilson Bridge jumper negotiations ~
“We went out there. Derek Gaunt’s talking to the guy. As a team leader my responsibility is to watch him and sort of manage what’s going on. Anyway, we’d been out there about six hours, sun went down. We got a little cold, but it was a threat that he’d had a gun. That’s why we backed off.”
Andy Ockershausen: This is Andy Ockershausen. This is Our Town. I’m delighted, I say that all the time Dana, but I really mean it in your case because you approached me and we were at a Heroes meeting and you brought up WMAL and the fact that you grew up with it, and that impressed me more than your badge and more than your stars because you are part of Our Town. I’m so delighted to have you with us.
Dana Lawhorne: Thank you for having me. What an honor and a privilege. My life is complete.
Andy Ockershausen: As a listener and a purveyor of the scene you knew what WMAL was about and I was impressed that you can remember those people and those names.
Alexandria, VA Born and Bred
Dana Lawhorne: Yes, I grew up in Alexandria, been there my whole life. The house I live in now I look out the back door and see the house that I grew up in. Every household … I’m 60 so you’re going back to the early ’60s, every household was on AM630. That’s how I just kind of thought that that’s what everybody listened to.
Growing Up with WMAL AM630
Dana Lawhorne: I’d always wake up in the morning to Harden and Weaver, so when you first wake up you’re kind of in a daze and I’m like, “There’s them guys again.” I said that. My mom must’ve rented my room to somebody. I thought they lived in the house actually. I just thought they were part of the family. I grew up on AM630 and all the greats, the personality radio back in the day. The radio was based on personalities.
Andy Ockershausen: Your family named you Dana. To me, when I grew up Dana was a girl’s name, but I love it. Dana Andrew was my first experience of an actor. Remember him?
Dana Lawhorne: Oh yeah.
Andy Ockershausen: Great actor.
What’s In a Name, Literally!
Dana Lawhorne: I can tell you two things about that real quick. I suspect that’s where they got the name. I was born in 1957 and that was his heyday. I mean he was big.
Andy Ockershausen: Oh boy.
Dana Lawhorne: I’m a big Dana Andrews fan. That’s the story I like to tell. Growing up there were no male Danas. They were all girl Danas.
Dana Lawhorne: It was tough. It was tough.
Andy Ockershausen: I’ll bet it was.
Dana Lawhorne: Let me tell you, and it’s still tough at age 60.
Andy Ockershausen: It’s tough in Alexandria too.
Lawhorne Finds the Humor in His Name
Dana Lawhorne: Look, they still think I’m a girl. I go to the doctor and I’m the only one sitting in the waiting room. They walk out and they go, “Dana Lawhorne,” they like looking all round they go, they turn around and they go to the back. I’m like knocking on the door, “I’m Dana Lawhorne.” They’re like, “Oops.” They do. They go, “Oops, sorry.” I’m like, “I’m used to it. Don’t worry about it.”
Andy Ockershausen: I knew it. It had to be.
Dana Lawhorne: All the coupons I get from CVS, the rewards, they’re all for …
Andy Ockershausen: Dana, you impress me so much in our conversation. You really knew about Our Town. You know about growing up here. You knew how important WMAL was to everybody, not just to Alexandria. You grew up as a cop in Alexandria, so you had a dose of what we were and what we were doing. You’re such a great friend of WMAL. We appreciate you.
AM630 WMAL Good Memories of Days Gone By
Dana Lawhorne: Somebody told me about your podcast show and I longed for the days of true radio talk, if you ask me, where the talk radio was based on personalities. You were just part of our home. You always made an effort to make it sound like we were all friends, we were all in this together. At night I love … Sort of was way before my time I guess. I had an old soul growing up. I loved listening to the talk radio when I was 12-13 years old. I had one earpiece that went in my ear on an AM radio and loved listening to it, listening to Larry Krebs, always kind of felt I could sleep better at night knowing he was out there because if something really big happened he’d wake us all up.
Andy Ockershausen: He was there baby.
Dana Lawhorne: He was there, yes. Tom Gauger, my oldest sister and I were such big huge fans of him. He always did an annual Christmas show from an off-site like Tyson’s Corner or something. We went out to Tyson’s Corner. I have a bunch of Polaroids somewhere of the three of us and Tom Gauger.
Andy Ockershausen: They were the good old days, you’re right.
The Washington Redskins
Dana Lawhorne: I loved it, and the Redskins, listening to them and everything.
Bill Mayhugh Was Friend to Metropolitan Area Police
Andy Ockershausen: Before you became a cop and before eventually became the Sheriff, been in law enforcement now for all these years, WMAL was known as a friend of the police all over the Metropolitan Area because of Bill Mayhugh, who was all night long, because that was cops who were working could listen to what was going on. Then Larry Krebs was there with them.
I understand Larry carried hot coffee in his car so if there was a fire he’d be the only there with food for the firefighters. Those things don’t exist anymore Dana.
Our Town Podcast Evokes Good Memories for Lawhorne
Dana Lawhorne: They don’t and I really I’ve listened to a lot of your podcasts. A lot of people have mentioned this to you, how much they miss and how much we really wish it came back. When I heard about your show a couple years ago I started listening, and I’m working my way up to the 160 interviews you’ve already done, but I tell everybody just what a hoot it is to listen to Sonny Jurgenson. You are so blessed to have had Jim Vance before he passed.
Andy Ockershausen: Oh yes. We were one of the few interviews he had before he announced that he was quitting. He knew, he told me sitting right where you are that he was not well, and we knew it was bad.
Dana Lawhorne: Listen to that interview. I mean it’s just …
Andy Ockershausen: He was just world class.
Dana Lawhorne – On Meeting Jim Vance in High School
Dana Lawhorne: You know when I first met him, why your interview with him meant so much to me was I first met him when I was a junior at TC Williams High School.
Andy Ockershausen: Wow.
Dana Lawhorne: Our English teacher invited him to come and talk to our class. He told the same stories he told you to us back then about starting in Philadelphia and how he got the job and all that.
Andy Ockershausen: And he worked his way up. He started at the bottom. A fine man, Jim Vance. One of the people we had is a voice gone from the past called Mark Russell. He was so influential in Our Town at one time.
Dana Lawhorne: Yes.
Andy Ockershausen: Politically.
Dana Lawhorne: Yes.
Andy Ockershausen: To resurrect him has been a pleasure. I’m going to resurrect you too Dana, because I want to talk to you. I’m going to take a break now then I want to talk to you about your law enforcement work.
Dana Lawhorne: Sure.
Andy Ockershausen: This is Our Town with Andy O.
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Announcer: You’re listening to Our Town with Andy Ockershausen brought to you by Best Bark Communications.
Andy Ockershausen: This is Andy Ockershausen and Our Town with Dana Lawhorne, the present sheriff of Alexandria, Virginia, which is a huge title to me because I do not know the difference between the police chief and the sheriff. I didn’t know that there was a difference, but obviously there’s a huge difference. Dana started as a cop and ends up as the sheriff. Dana, how in the world did that happen? You’re a native, you’re local. You wanted to be a policeman.
Lawhorne’s First Police Ride Along was in 8th Grade
Dana Lawhorne: I was 14 years old. I was sitting in Parker-Gray Middle School with my head on the desk and totally disengaged, really didn’t, couldn’t quite figure things out. Just grew up in a home that was very, somewhat dysfunctional is all I’ll say, so school was tough. I kind of was disengaged.
My 8th grade teacher, Jack Esformes, said the police were coming to the classroom once a week and talking to us. He said they’ve started a police ride along program, citizen ride along program. He says, “You should do that.” I said, “No way, no how. Everybody will think I’m a narc.” He made me go because he showed me my grades, which was zero, zero, zero, zero, and he said, “I’ll give you a grade if you go.” I went and I wrote a paper about it and he gave me a grade and I got out of the 8th grade. That’s how I got out of the 8th grade.
Lawhorne Got the Bug to Become a Police Officer After Ride Along
Dana Lawhorne: Anyway, I went on a police ride along when I was 14 years old, loved it, got the bug, thought that’s my out. That’s my goal in life. That’s all I ever thought about. Quite a few Alexandria police officers took me under their wing and were role models for me. That’s all I ever thought about.
27 Years with Alexandria Police Department
Dana Lawhorne: When I was 21 years old I was fortunate enough to be hired by the Alexandria Police Department, was an officer for 27 years, 7 in uniform patrol, 7 years, and 20 years as a detective.
Andy Ockershausen: On the street as a detective?
Dana Lawhorne: Yes.
Andy Ockershausen: That must’ve been an interesting time. I grew up for a while my other life in Alexandria and I knew a lot of the officers and I knew how busy that was. It’s in a small area. They had a lot, a lot of cops. They needed them. I just thought the Alexandria Police Department had great reputation.
Elected as Sheriff for City of Alexandria in 2005
Dana Lawhorne: It was a great career. In 2005 I ran for sheriff and won.
Andy Ockershausen: Is that an elected job? Correct?
Sheriff Works for the People – “My first time I had an opponent, ran the last three times unopposed, which I’m proud of.”
Dana Lawhorne: Elected every four years. My first time I had an opponent, ran the last three times unopposed, which I’m proud of. So, the reason why you have both is the short answer is that the Virginia law says you must elect a sheriff. There’s no choice. You have to elect a sheriff. The sheriff will do X, Y and Z, X being police the town or county, Y run the jail, city, Z is run the courthouse. Unless you as a town decide to elect your own town police force then they will police the town and you’re left with Y and Z, jail and courthouse. I have the jail and courthouse. Localities will do that because I’m elected and I work for the people.
Andy Ockershausen: The public.
Dana Lawhorne: The police chief works, he’s an appointment, works for the city manager who works for the city council. They’re getting to have local control over their police chief.
Andy Ockershausen: Your department’s in charge of the jails, correct?
Sheriff’s Department Runs Alexandria Dentention Center, Alexandria Courthouse and Federal Penitentiary in Alexandria
Dana Lawhorne: Yes, the Alexandria Detention Center, the Alexandria Courthouse.
Andy Ockershausen: How about the federal? There’s a big federal courthouse in Alexandria, correct?
Dana Lawhorne: Yes, yes.
Andy Ockershausen: That’s moved down Eisenhower Avenue someplace?
Dana Lawhorne: That’s close, right by us. We’re about two blocks apart. We have a federal contract with the marshals that we do all their federal holds.
Andy Ockershausen: You do? You get paid by Uncle Sam?
Dana Lawhorne: Yes.
Andy Ockershausen: Department I remember in Alexandria was downtown. It was like off of Duke Street or off of King Street, but it was down in the city.
Dana Lawhorne: That’s correct.
Andy Ockershausen: Now because of progress you had to move to the suburbs.
Dana Lawhorne: We moved there in 1987.
Andy Ockershausen: Is that when it happened?
Dana Lawhorne: Yes.
Andy Ockershausen: When did you first become sheriff?
Dana Lawhorne: 2006.
Andy Ockershausen: It hasn’t been that long. You ran the jail for the feds, obviously had some famous prisoners?
Dana Lawhorne: Yes.
Andy Ockershausen: In the federal penitentiary?
Zacarias Moussaoui, Paul Manafort and Maria Butina Among Prisoners Held, Pretrial, at Federal Penitentiary in Alexandria
Dana Lawhorne: We were probably most notable for right after 911, what they call the 20th hijacker, Zacarias Moussaoui. Had him four and a half years. More notable today is Manafort.
Andy Ockershausen: He was in the jail for four and a half years?
Dana Lawhorne: Yes.
Andy Ockershausen: They were trying to avoid the trial?
Dana Lawhorne: It took them that long to bring him to trial, yes. More recently Manafort, Butina the Russian spy.
Andy Ockershausen: Was he there? Why didn’t they put him in a country club estate?
Dana Lawhorne: Who?
Andy Ockershausen: Manafort, after he was convicted?
Dana Lawhorne: No, before because they revoked his bail and put him in custody.
Andy Ockershausen: He was a political prisoner, no doubt about that. When does your responsibility end? When you transfer them then to a federal penitentiary?
Dana Lawhorne: Yes.
Andy Ockershausen: Or they come and them or you deliver them?
Dana Lawhorne: Yes. We’re all pretrial. We’re all pretrial. Once they’re convicted and they’re sentenced, then they go to Bureau of Prisons. We average around 130-140.
Andy Ockershausen: Federal?
Dana Lawhorne: Yes.
Andy Ockershausen: Is that right?
Dana Lawhorne: Yeah, on any given day.
Andy Ockershausen: You get a few dollars from that?
Dana Lawhorne on City of Alexandria Sheriff’s Budget
Dana Lawhorne: About $7 million a year for the city.
Andy Ockershausen: Wow, but that doesn’t go to the department. It goes into the treasurer’s office, right?
Dana Lawhorne: Exactly, but look, between the federal money, and state money, and some other funding sources, about half my budget is funded through other sources.
Andy Ockershausen: You have three sources. You have federal, you have state, and you have state prisoners also?
Dana Lawhorne: Yes.
Andy Ockershausen: Then you have city with city prisoners?
Dana Lawhorne: Yes.
Andy Ockershausen: That’s a pretty big responsibility chief.
Dana Lawhorne: About 400 inmates per day. That’s probably about 70% of what we do. It absorbs about 70% of our resources.
Andy Ockershausen: Are you getting ready for any new incoming prisoner?
Dana Lawhorne: No, not that I know of.
Andy Ockershausen: I heard them yelling lock him up last night at one of those rallies. Lock her up. You’ve heard that.
Dana Lawhorne: Try not to get involved in all that.
Andy Ockershausen: Dana, you’re still involved in the city. We were talking about where you live, how close it was to that ball field that I know because I know who built it in Shepperton and Gene Simpson and the builders and did all that. It was one of the great ball parks I think in my growing up. To have that shooting in Alexandria was very frightening.
Eugene Simpson Stadium Park Shooting
Dana Lawhorne: Yes. I live about six blocks from there, grew up, played ball. I feel like a lot kids did on Simpson Field. I was just getting ready for work and I got there about 10 minutes after the suspect was neutralized.
Andy Ockershausen: A lot of shooting.
Dana Lawhorne: I stayed there all day with the police chief and fire chief.
Peter Laboy Survived Shot to Head in 2013
Andy Ockershausen: There was a case in Alexandria with a motorcycle policeman that got killed [sic].
Dana Lawhorne: Peter Laboy.
Andy Ockershausen: Is that guy still in the jail? Has he been … I think they convicted him.
Dana Lawhorne: They did but I believe that the disposition was … I’m like you, I’m drawing a blank.
Andy Ockershausen: I’m reading again about law enforcement about Paul Ebert, who I know out in the county. He didn’t get a death sentence and he said the world has changed, but it has.
Lawhorne on Climate of Policing Today
Dana Lawhorne: It has. It’s a tough business today. It’s one of the things that I talk about often. People are asking me about the climate today of policing and what it’s like. It’s getting difficult sometimes to recruit, but it’s the profession that I came into that I still today have a passion for. I guess today maybe the younger ones don’t have that passion. I don’t know. It’s a tough business, coming under a lot of scrutiny and criticism. The public demands more. The expectations are higher.
Andy Ockershausen: Social media.
Dana Lawhorne: Social media.
Andy Ockershausen: Changed a lot of things.
Dana Lawhorne: Look, they can love us. I say it’s the pendulum. It swings all the time. I remember I came on in ’79. They didn’t care for us. Then crack hit then they loved us, couldn’t do without us. No matter which way it goes they always need us. They always need us.
Andy Ockershausen: They do. Sheriff, this has been a wonderful conversation. We’ll continue now with our conversation with the Sheriff of Alexandria, Dana Lawhorne. It’s the male Dana. This is Andy Ockershausen. This is Our Town.
Dana Lawhorne: Thank you.
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Announcer: You’re listening to Our Town with Andy Ockershausen.
Andy Ockershausen: This is Andy Ockershausen and I’m speaking with the Sheriff of Alexandria, delightful, delightful local, Our Town native, a great WMAL fan, and a great guy or he wouldn’t be here. But Dana Lawhorne, I know your years on the force as a uniformed policeman was a different world than you now face. Some of your stories about our city and Our Town of Alexandria I’d like to hear.
Dana Lawhorne: I came on the police department in 1979. I was a uniform patrol officer until ’86. It was a great job. Of course I was 21 years old at the time, but anyway, it was a great job. Back then you relied on your radio. You didn’t have the computers that you have today. It was just a great job. I enjoyed it. I loved policing the community that I grew up in and being a part of that community.
Andy Ockershausen: You had to know a lot of people because you’re native.
On Becoming a Police Officer in a Town Where Everyone Knows Your Name
Dana Lawhorne: They did. A lot of people I went to high school with were like looking at me like they were shocked or something like, “What? You’re a police officer?” Knocking on the door in the middle of the night going, “Hey, I know you from high school.” It was a great job.
Andy Ockershausen: Here’s your summons.
Dana Lawhorne: I transferred as a detective in ’86 and did investigating crimes committed against children.
Andy Ockershausen: Plain clothes detective?
Dana Lawhorne: Yes.
Andy Ockershausen: Did you ever do any undercover work?
Undercover – Not So Much
Dana Lawhorne: I tried once and it didn’t go so well so anyway. I wasn’t very good at it. They looked at me and said, “You’re a cop.”
Janice Iacona Ockershausen: Got it written all over you.
Dana Lawhorne: Yeah, right. What gave it away? The handcuff key on your keyring. Got me on that one.
Andy Ockershausen: That is you see me in that uniform and immediately thought I was a policeman. Great story.
Dana Lawhorne: They wanted me to wear blue jeans? You should’ve told me. Anyway, I was a detective. That was one of the best jobs I ever had. I really enjoyed it and a lot of challenges.
Andy Ockershausen: You decided to go into politics because you were in a political position, correct?
Dana Lawhorne: Yes.
Andy Ockershausen: You got to run again so you got to have a good performance or they’ll throw you out?
Dana Lawhorne: Yes.
Andy Ockershausen: And take the benefits with them. Alexandria was known for many years as a small little southern town attached to Arlington and Washington, and all of a sudden in my years with Frank Mann became mayor and things began to change for the city, long before you were on the force, we got to be the all American city. For the first time Alexandria was on the map all over the world. Great old port city.
Biggest Challenge to City of Alexandria Police Force, 1988
Dana Lawhorne: It’s a great city. It’s like every other city, in 1988 when crack cocaine hit we were overwhelmed by just like everybody else. The city did a really good job of trying to stay ahead of it and eventually led to results. It was during that time as a detective that we were probably challenged the most.
Andy Ockershausen: Timing is everything.
Dana Lawhorne: Timing’s everything. Look, I’ve been with the city 40 years and it’s been great. I’m truly lucky.
Andy Ockershausen: You’ve seen the changes. You know what I mean. Dana, tell me, you had a story about performing a wedding.
Lawhorne DOES Have Authority to Perform a Wedding
Dana Lawhorne: As a Sheriff people think that I can perform weddings. I always say …
Andy Ockershausen: The Captain of the ship.
Dana Lawhorne: One of the things that I’ve really enjoyed is marrying people. They think as a Sheriff, they’ve been watching too much Andy Griffith, that I have this power to marry them. I’ve done eight full weddings, bridesmaids, the whole nine yards. Boy are they in for a shock when they find out that it’s totally not legal at all, you know what I mean?
Andy Ockershausen: Do you have to be in uniform when you do that?
Dana Lawhorne: No, no, no. I’m just kidding about it.
Andy Ockershausen: You have the authority?
Dana Lawhorne: Yes. I was just kidding about not being legal. I usually tell them at the end of the ceremony. I go, “Look, this is not legal at all so good luck, but anyway, don’t blame me.” I get a circuit court order that gives me the authority to do it, so yes.
Andy Ockershausen: You have so many beautiful stories and that’s one of them. Also, because of what it did to Our Town, the Woodrow Wilson Bridge jumper was one of the major stories of the last 50 years I think. I mean I never ever seen a town collapse like that did.
Dana Lawhorne: What happens is he goes on the middle of the bridge, it’s actually over DC waters so they took jurisdiction, but we got there first so we started talking to him.
Andy Ockershausen: Were you a policeman then?
Dana Lawhorne: Yeah, I was a police officer then, but one of my ancillary duties was I was a team leader for hostage negotiation team.
Andy Ockershausen: Hostage team.
Dana Lawhorne: We were called. We went out there. Derek Gaunt’s talking to the guy. As a team leader my responsibility is to watch him and sort of manage what’s going on. Anyway, we’d been out there about six hours, sun went down. We got a little cold, but it was a threat that he’d had a gun. That’s why we backed off.
DC was managing it from the Maryland side and we were talking to him from the Virginia side. Anyway, to make a long story short, about 6:00-6:30 I think when my sister was calling me wanting to know if the bridge was back open. I go, “Okay, we’ve been out here a while.” Anyway, I walk out there and I say, “If you fall in the water,” he wanted to see his wife, and I say, “Your wife’s in Virginia in Alexandria.” I was looking at him and pointing. I’m going, “She’s that way.” I say, “If you fall in the water in DC you’re going to go that way.”
So he came off and he started walking down the Jersey wall. He said, “I’ll get in your car.” I went and got my car. I pulled up next to him. I turned the heat up really high and I said, “Come on man. It’s warm in here.” He said, “Will you buy me a prime rib dinner?” I said, “Yes.” He said, “Will you buy me two?” I said, “Sure.” He says, “Okay.” Then boom, they shot him with the bean bag. The bean bag hit him on the ankle. He went ouch and then he just looked at me, whoop, went over the Jersey wall and splashed.
Everybody said, “Then what did you do?” I said, “I looked over into Maryland and I saw the Maryland State Police opening the beltway and letting the people opening the traffic.” I yelled at them, “Get in the car. Run.” We made a big U turn and burned rubber and got out of there.
Andy Ockershausen: What a story. Incredible show, huh?
Dana Lawhorne: Quite a night. One of my other stories about being on a hostage negotiation team was the night that two guys go and rob the pawn shop. Somebody sees them and they call the police. They get trapped inside. I was on duty that night. They called me so I go down there. I’m the negotiator. I have to call the pawn shop and start talking to that guy.
Andy Ockershausen: On the telephone?
Dana Lawhorne: On the telephone. Actually we actually had a cellphone back then. The headquarters gave me the telephone number and I called and I started talking to this person. I’m going, “What’s going on?” It was a hostage situation. I was like, “Yeah, yeah, yeah.” I go, “Well how you doing?” He says, “Well I’m fine.” He said, “I got a police officer in here.” I go, “You do?” He goes, “Yeah.” I said, “Can I tell the watch command-, or the on scene commander?” I go, “There’s a police officer inside. This could be good. It could be bad.”
I said, “Can I talk to him?” He says, “Sure.” The officer got on the phone. I say, “Hey man. How’s everything going?” He says, “Fine.” He said, “But next door at the pawn shop they got hostages.” They gave me the wrong number. I called the Five Guys.
Andy Ockershausen: It sounds like the Keystone Cops.
Dana Lawhorne: It’s a true story. It turned out that I wind up talking to this guy for about three hours. There were eight hostages and got them all out but he decided to take his life.
Andy Ockershausen: You couldn’t stop that.
Dana Lawhorne: No, I couldn’t stop. It was hard. I tried.
Andy Ockershausen: It sounds like Car 54 where are you.
Dana Lawhorne: Sometimes.
Dana Lawhorne: Sometimes, sometimes. As a police officer it was a great job. I’ve been so blessed to have had such a great career.
Andy Ockershausen: Let me tell you. The city of Alexandria is blessed to have officers like you.
Dana Lawhorne: Thank you.
Andy Ockershausen: And Sheriffs like you. We’re very proud of you and particularly since you’re a WMAL guy because you know we’re going to love you Dana.
Dana Lawhorne: I’ve just been lucky. I met a girl when I was 19 years old and she agreed to a second date. Now here are. We’ve been married since 1986. You notice I’m not doing the math because if I get it wrong.
Exactly. We met later, but we have three daughters, grown daughters. Two oldest who are married. We have a grandson.
Andy Ockershausen: You’re still living in the city?
Dana Lawhorne: Still live in the city.
Andy Ockershausen: Don’t move.
Dana Lawhorne: The girls are still here. They’re all within 5 or 10 minutes. They’re home now more than they were when they were in high school, but great kids, great family. I’ve been so blessed and I’m lucky.
Andy Ockershausen: We’re blessed to have you in Our Town.
Dana Lawhorne: To be here today Andy, I got to tell you, man, come on, it’s doesn’t get any better than this than to be here.
Andy Ockershausen: There’s nothing better, you’re right. You can thank and I know you will, thank my wife who’s my producer, Janice, was originally Janice Iacona. She produced the Harden and Weaver show for the 10 golden years and things will never be like that again.
1982 Air Florida Crash – Police Chief to Lawhorne “You got to go. You got to take our boat.”
Dana Lawhorne: Everything you talk about I always relate to. I was listening to your – Trumbull and Core’s producer. He was talking about the Air Florida crash. I was there.
Andy Ockershausen: You were there?
Dana Lawhorne: I was there because real quick, back then the only way for all the public safety communicates through a civil defense phone. He picked the phone up and went, “Help,” and everybody picked it up at the same time it rang. Once you picked it up it rang everywhere. When the plane went down they picked it up and said, “Plane crash, 14 Street Bridge, need boats.”
I’m in roll call at 4:00. They call down the roll call room. They say, “Chief wants to see you in the lobby.” I go upstairs, airplane crash, 14th Street Bridge, you got to go. You got to take our boat. I’m going, “I can’t swim.” We don’t care. We had you down as a certified boat operator. I said, “Because I put me in that boat and we drifted out to the Woodrow Wilson Bridge one day and we had to row back?” He said, “Yeah, we put you down.”
Vicarious liability was really big back then. He said, “No, you gotta go.” They dust off the snow off this boat that we had in the back on a trailer. Garry Ground, you know Garry, was there and we had nothing to hook it up to. The guy at the fire shop next door had an open cab fire truck. He said, “I got a hitch on that.” We hooked it up to that and I jump into the cab of this fire truck and here I go. I couldn’t believe it.
All I could think about was I was going to drown.
Andy Ockershausen: The water was cold too.
Dana Lawhorne: It was, but you went. You know what I mean?
Andy Ockershausen: When the order comes you got to go.
Dana Lawhorne: That’s right. You go. I said, we were going by the Giant food store on 1st Street where my brother was a manager and I said, “I hope he’s working because if he’s in that manager’s thing which is elevated and he hears me come by in a fire truck,” I stood up, it was open cab, I stood up and sure enough he was working. He looks at me and I look at him. I go, “Boo. It’s me. You can have my Pontiac.”
By the time we got up there it was all over.
Andy Ockershausen: You’re a hero.
Dana Lawhorne: No, it was nothing.
Andy Ockershausen: We lived through the whole thing. I know what happened and all about it. Dana, it’s been such a pleasure because you’re such a big, big part of Our Town and we hope you will continue to be, hope you keep winning elections.
Dana Lawhorne: Absolutely. Thank you. Last thing I want to say is thank you. I just the city, the people of Alexandria have been so good to me, just been so lucky.
Andy Ockershausen: You’ve been good to them too.
Dana Lawhorne: I’ve tried, I’ve tried.
Andy Ockershausen: Two way street.
Dana Lawhorne: I’ve tried really hard. I’ve always tried to do the right thing.
Andy Ockershausen: Dana, thank you so much. Dana Lawhorne, the Sheriff of Alexandria, Virginia, an all American city I may add.
Dana Lawhorne: Thank you.
Andy Ockershausen: This is Andy Ockershausen reminding everybody you’re all part of Our Town.
Announcer: You’ve been listening to Our Town, Season 4, presented by GEICO, our hometown favorite, with your host, Andy Ockershausen. New Our Town episodes are released each Tuesday and Thursday. Drop us a line with your comments or suggestions. See us on Facebook, or visit our website at OurTownDC.com. Our special thanks to Ken Hunter, our technical director, and WMAL Radio in Washington, DC. And thanks to GEICO. 15 minutes can save you 15% or more on car insurance.