Port Arthur firefighter recruited as first African American to join dive team – Port Arthur News
Port Arthur firefighter recruited as first African American to join dive team
Posted at 12:40 a.m. on Saturday, September 24, 2022
Patrick Cook always knew he would spend his life in public service. And he demonstrated it at an early age after a night of video games with friends in eighth grade.
“Pat always had a competitive nature,” Cook’s childhood friend Jacobi Edwards said with a laugh. “When we were little, we lay awake one night playing ‘Just Dance’ on the Wii. Pat unfortunately had two left feet at the time. But in the nature of his character, he wouldn’t let us sleep as long as “He wouldn’t have won a game. It just shows the level of discipline, will and drive he has.
But he continued to show more than that, when the game triggered a seizure in another child.
“He knew exactly what to do,” Edwards said of his friend. “He was always calm and collected. A lot of people would panic but he was always ready. He never worried. It was amazing.”
And it’s something he is always commended for, now in his second year with the Port Arthur Fire Service.
“He’s very good on calls,” PADF chief Greg Benson said. “He knows his job. He is very competent. He stays focused. People feel very comfortable and confident working with him, which is a very positive thing.
And on Tuesday, Cook will become the first African American to join the department’s diving team.
“Because it’s a very tight team, they want to be sure that the person who is added is a good candidate,” Benson said. “He came out number 1. So now they’re going to start all the training he has to go through to get his certifications. He will also begin participating in their monthly training.
Although he knew his career would be that of a first responder, Cook said he became interested in the dive team after his high school job as a lifeguard in Port Arthur.
After graduating, he entered college to major in criminal justice while enlisting as a member of the U.S. Army National Guard, for which he served for six years.
“Being a police officer was top of my list,” said the Port Arthur native. “It was personal. Growing up and seeing people being bullied all the time, it did something to me. I didn’t like it.
And while he would end up working for a time as a police officer, the 31-year-old initially tried to join the fire department.
“I tried to get hired in 2015, but at that time the fire department wasn’t sending anyone to the academy,” he said. “I was in my last year of college and there was no way I could take out any more loans.”
After graduating, he and his wife moved to Louisiana, where he worked as a police officer. But when they returned home soon after, she told him of an announcement that firefighters were hiring and would pay for training. So within days he handed over the papers.
“I didn’t study,” he said. “I just thought, if I get it, I get it; if I don’t, I don’t. I didn’t even know there was material to study. I only found out afterwards. But it was general knowledge, so let’s see what I know.
He passed with an 80 and joined the department on May 27, 2020. First there was EMT training at Orange, followed by fire training at Lamar Institute of Technology. And then came the reward.
“We managed to salvage at least two lies,” he said of his team at Station Two on Grannis Avenue. “It’s the ultimate pleasure; that’s why I signed up to do this job. Everyone loves fire – that’s the fun part. But my favorite thing is seeing someone dead, then seeing them with a pulse when they leave my care.
While he’s not sure what he’ll be up against with the dive team, which often conducts criminal investigations underwater with zero visibility, he likened it to firefighting.
“We go into house fires and it’s dark,” he said. “We wear masks in a house fire because it’s a toxic environment. If you take that mask off, you’re dead. Granted, I haven’t done (the diving) yet, but I’m not doing anything just to say I did it. In a job where other people depend on me, I always say to myself, “When someone calls your number, give it your all.”