Cpl. Mike Montgomery: A real-life hero in a time of crisis
Saturday's Smyrna Public Safety Foundation sponsored Auction for Heroes Gala promises to be a true celebration of our city's accomplished firefighters and police officers.
What are your plans for Saturday night? Come remember, honor, and celebrate Smyrna’s Fire and Police “Heroes” at the Smyrna Auction for Heroes Gala, Saturday, Sept. 10 at historic Brawner Hall on Atlanta Road.
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“My father was a police officer in Americus, Ga.,” said Mike Montgomery, “but it wasn’t until after high school that I thought seriously about becoming one myself.” He has been a police officer for 18 years now, with 10 years in Smyrna assigned to the Motor Unit.
One of his most exciting—and frightening—experiences came when he was a deputy with the Sumter County Sheriff’s Office. The event took place during the massive flood of 1994 when two weeks of rain plagued the county. This particular night, the heavy rain of two weeks became a deluge that washed out many roads and wreaked havoc throughout the county.
Thirteen people died that night. Montgomery was off-duty, but he was called in to help out, as were all the other off-duty officers. On his drive in, he saw the road ahead of him was impassable because of flooding and a dip in the road. When he looked behind him, he saw that the floods had closed the low-lying road behind him as well in just moments. He was stranded but safe, at least temporarily, between the two floods.
Facing forward again, he saw another vehicle, this one mired in the floodwaters. The driver had tried to cross, but the flood caught him. Montgomery saw the panicked driver inside the vehicle and also saw the water began to rise, threatening to engulf the vehicle’s interior.
In 1994, the sheriff’s office only had radios for on-duty officers, so since Montgomery was off-duty when he was called to the station, he did not have one, nor did he have a cell phone, and had no way to call for back up. The responsibility was his alone. Montgomery waded through the fast and rapidly rising waters, reached the stranded vehicle, and climbed on top of the roof. He broke the window and pulled the man out, and they both took refuge on the roof, with the current still pushing the vehicle off the road.
In thinking about his options to get them both to safety, Montgomery asked the driver if he could swim. But the driver couldn’t. The floodwaters continued to rage and push the vehicle, but soon it became wedged against a tree and remained there, teetering precariously. Montgomery stayed with the stranded driver, both perched on top of the roof, doing his best to calm the driver and keep him from sliding off the roof into the torrent, hoping rescue would come soon.
They were stranded several hours, but help eventually arrived in the form of a large, heavy DOT vehicle. Montgomery’s commanding officer later told him that he had not followed procedure: he shouldn’t have jeopardized his own life to attempt rescuing the stranded motorist. “But what could I do?” Montgomery recalled years later. “My options seemed to be to go to the driver and try to help or remain in my vehicle and watch him get carried away and maybe drown in the flood.”
Montgomery’s willingness to put his own life at risk mirrors that of the heroes of some of his favorite films, including “anything action by Schwarzenegger.” Thank you, Officer Montgomery, for being a real-life hero to our community.