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Quake anniversary: Louisa High student recalls the day

 When the quake hit, volunteer firefighter and then-Louisa High student Donald 'Diesel' Embrey helped evacuate people and tend to the injured. He will join the Navy in January.
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Date published: 8/23/2012


Donald "Diesel" Embrey was in his British literature class when it happened a year ago today. At the time, the Louisa County High School senior didn't know what was going on except that everything around him was shaking.

"The first few minutes were like 'What just happened?'" the now 18-year-old said Wednesday. "After I got my mind clear, I knew I had to do something."

The magnitude-5.8 earthquake took the Louisa County community by surprise last Aug. 23.

The Louisa teenager, who volunteers for the Mineral Volunteer Fire Department and the Louisa County Rescue Squad, saw the tiles from the ceiling falling down on his classmates, and went from student mode to response mode.

Embrey helped students evacuate, and performed triage on injured students at the school.

He later responded to the Mineral firehouse, where he worked to establish an emergency evacuation shelter and triage center. He also helped secure damaged buildings and search for injured residents.

"You think that something like that doesn't happen in Virginia," he said. "But it did."

That wasn't the first time Embrey has had to deal with an unexpected natural disaster. Just six months earlier, in February 2011, he responded to a massive 2,500-acre brush fire in Louisa.

His emergency response efforts have not gone unnoticed.

Embrey was one of 125 applicants chosen to serve on the Federal Emergency Management Agency's Youth Preparedness Council. The 14-member council consists of youths between the ages of 13 and 17, and will "voice their opinions, experiences, ideas and solutions to help strengthen the nation's resiliency for all types of disasters," FEMA said in a news release. The youth council members will be providing their perspective and taking information back to their communities.

"I've learned some new things and I gave some knowledge as well," Embrey said about the council's first meeting earlier this month.

During the roundtables, the council met with FEMA administrator Craig Fugate and discussed steps to strengthen the nation's overall resiliency.

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