South Fulton fire captain who recited, signed pledge lauded for making an ‘impact’

South Fulton fire Capt. Andrea Hall hugs sign language interpreter David Cowan during an event recognizing her for participating in last month's presidential inauguration.
South Fulton fire Capt. Andrea Hall hugs sign language interpreter David Cowan during an event recognizing her for participating in last month's presidential inauguration.

Credit: Channel 2 Action News

Credit: Channel 2 Action News

The South Fulton fire captain who recited and signed the Pledge of Allegiance at President Joe Biden’s inauguration was moved to tears Wednesday morning after being recognized by city leaders — and one special guest.

Capt. Andrea Hall was broadcast into living rooms across the nation last month when she took the stage in Washington, D.C. She had been asked to recite the pledge, but ended up doing it in American Sign Language as well.

Fire Captain Andrea Hall says Pledge of Allegiance at Biden's inauguration

Hall, whose father was deaf, helped bring sign language interpretation to South Fulton’s public meetings as a way to show support for the hearing-impaired community and keep them informed. During Wednesday’s recognition ceremony, city leaders read a proclamation thanking Hall for her contributions to the fire department and the city, as well as hundreds of thousands of hearing-impaired Americans.

But the highlight of the event was Hall being moved to tears by a special guest. David Cowan, the state of Georgia’s charismatic sign language interpreter, surprised the veteran firefighter on stage and gave her a hug.

Video shared to the city’s Facebook page shows the two embracing after a brief conversation in which Cowan tells Hall how excited he was to see her on TV.

While reading the city’s proclamation, Mayor Bill Edwards said he received calls from friends across the U.S. last month as Hall performed at Biden’s inauguration. “People called me from my hometown and all over the country and said, ‘South Fulton?’” Edwards said. “I said, ‘Yes, South Fulton.’”

Hall, who serves as president of the International Association of Firefighters Local 3920, represented the city well, Edwards told her.

She began her career in 1993 and was the first woman in the history of Albany’s fire department to successfully make it through the recruitment process, Hall recently told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. At the time, the department was full of white men who looked nothing like her.

She joined the Fulton County Fire Department in 1999, becoming a captain five years later. She stayed on in February 2018 when the county’s department became the South Fulton Fire Department as a result of municipalities forming their own forces, and currently runs the operations divisions.

She was initially invited to the inauguration to represent the country’s municipal firefighters, but said she had no idea performing the pledge in sign language would be so well-received.

“I certainly had not anticipated that it was going to have that sort of impact, but what it really reminded me of is how important it is for us to be thoughtful of others,” Hall said. “I did it as an act of love for my father and for my family members. However, the impact has had far-reaching implications that I’m very thankful for.

“Hopefully this is the beginning of us having some conversations around how we can be more thoughtful of people who are not necessarily like us.”

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