Pam Brewer helped form an advisory committee for a scholarship fund to honor four federal agents who died in the shootout at Mount Carmel.
Q. What was the reason for establishing a scholarship?
A. The idea came about a week after the initial raid. A few members of the community were talking about what we could possibly do to memorialize the four agents. We wanted to establish a lasting tribute.
We got approval from ATF and from families. We are going to permanently endow four scholarships in the name of each agent killed. They will be given to criminal justice students at McLennan Community College.
Q. How did you get involved?
A. First of all, I just made a decision that I wanted to be involved, but I didn’t know how. I happened to speak to a deputy sheriff who helped me be aware that there was a food need for the law enforcement agencies. I was shocked that they needed food, because I didn’t know the logistics of how that operation was being conducted in a remote part of the county.
There were 600 agents to feed and they couldn’t saunter off to Red Lobster and Steak and Ale and get a meal. So I got involved. It gave me something to do.
Q. What impressed you about officers on the scene?
A. I was able to speak to many of them on a personal level and I realized they aren’t just officers or agents, they are human beings. They have families, they have concerns like any of us.
The story that stands out most in my mind is an ATF agent from Chicago who had just talked to his wife on the telephone. His wife was upset because she had two sick children on her hands — one with the chicken pox and one with the flu.
He wanted to be home with her and he couldn’t be. I told him I have a 5-year-old boy who really thinks that the ATF is great. At that point he rummaged through his pocket and pulled out a pocket knife. He opened his jacket to his bullet-proof vest and literally ripped off his ATF badge and gave it to me for my son.
Q. Do you recall any bitter moments?
A. Many of the FBI and ATF agents had been buying baby clothes for the children who were in the compound, and who they just knew were going to get out safely. They had a box of clothes.
After the compound burned they were very, very distraught. People don’t see that side of an ATF agent in a bullet-proof vest — that he might have been out buying children’s clothes.
Q. The ATF agents bought billboard space to thank Waco and McLennan County. What was your reaction?
A. A few of us had the privilege of representing the scholarship committee at the ATF memorial service in Washington, D.C., May 20. I found out about the surprise from some of the agents then, and they were very excited — almost like kids — wanting to make it a surprise to the community.
Q. What memory lingers from the memorial service?
A. It was a very emotional time for me, as I talked to some of the family members of the four dead agents.
The most touching time was near the end of the service when ATF director Stephen Higgins mentioned the support that Waco and McLennan County had given the agents all the time and that the community had established four scholarships in memory of the dead agents. At the moment, spontaneous applause broke out. It was very moving to me, and I was very proud to be from Waco,
During the service Higgins made reference to an incident in which ATF agents came into a Waco restaurant and they were greeted with a standing ovation. The agents just stood there. They didn’t know whether to run or to cry.
Q. How much are you hoping to raise for the scholarship fund?
A. We’re hoping for $20,000 to endow it. We’ve already had fund-raisers through K95 and Allen Samuels Chevrolet-Geo.
Our big fund-raiser is Wednesday, a benefit golf tournament at Western Oaks Country Club. For information, contact Gregg Juster at 772-8100. The cost is $50 per person and includes cart, green fees, hat, dinner, trophies and more.
Q. If people wanted to donate money in another fashion, how would they?
A. They can take or send their donations to the Greater Waco Chambers of Commerce and make out checks to the Community ATF Memorial Scholarship.
Q. Many have wondered what effect the Mount Carmel incident had on Waco’s image. What is your opinion?
A. I know it improved my own opinion about the community — the way people bonded together in a time of crisis, the way people responded to the needs of the officers on the scene — businesses, churches, schools.
There were so many tales of kindness. For instance, the agents told me that a local couple loaned them their boat so they could go out to the lake for a few hours and fish, just relax.
I know a lot of the law enforcement officers from other parts of the country now are acting as ambassadors for Waco. I’m not sure what the country thinks of Waco at this moment, but I know that the law enforcement officers who were here are saying nothing but wonderful things about our community.
So I’m very proud to be from Waco because I think we actually proved what kind of community we are.
I don’t think our image is going to be tarnished at all.
Occupation: articulation coordinator for technical programs, McLennan Community College.
Place of birth: Long Island, N.Y.
Family: husband Gerald; son Adam, 5.
The famous person I most admire is: Attorney General Janet Reno.
The best book I’ve read recently is: Human Connections by John Diekman.
Waco could improve by: accentuating positive news stories and achievements that uplift and edify our community; increasing community support of all law enforcement agencies.
Hobbies: nature photography, interior decorating, antiques and collectibles.