LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WHAS11) -- One could feel the reverberations from Jefferson County Stone's rock quarry in the chest. One by one, the explosions popped, and boomed, and likely turned some heads around town.
No, it wasn't a bomb going off.
Actually, it was. Many of them.
The demonstration demolitions from Louisville Metro Police's Bomb Squad probably were every little boy's dream: They got to blow stuff up, like military-used C4, gasoline that ignited a Hollywood-like fireball (officers do call it "The Hollywood Shot"), and the exact plastic explosives that shoe bomber Richard Reid (2001) and underwear bomber Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab (2009) unsuccessfully used to try to blow up airplanes in flight.
The bomb squad used the show as a grand finale of a long week where twice a year, they train officers from several agencies. This time it included LMPD and the Transportation Security Administration (TSA). Bomb squad officers taught them to recognize suspicious packages and understand what to do as first responders on a scene. It's the opposite of their instructed instinct, really: instead of running to the object, stay put and call the bomb squad.
After all, the squad sports 80 pound suits that are hot inside and can deflect a small blast when an explosive is approached (likely not a large one). There are 13 officers and four medics who are part of the team.
"I think it opened all of our eyes up to the dangers that are out here," said LMPD 7th Division patrol Officer Julie Schmidt. "We are (usually) taught to run in and help people, when other people are running away from the scene, we run into help them."
The bomb squad commander for two years running is Sgt. Barry Denton, though he's been part of the team since 1997.
"We're dealing with things that could take someone's life if you make just one mistake," said Denton. "If we don't stay up on the trends and the bombers do then that puts us in more danger."
To show officers how it's done the bomb squad mimics the notorious plots of Reid and Abdulmutallab. The explosives were detonated in the sole of a shoe and set against a car door to replicate airplane fuselage.
The bomb squad must train as well. Federal agencies come in to keep them up to date. Fortunately, in Sgt. Denton's time, the 50-80 calls each year have turned out not to be as explosive as what was seen (and likely heard by many) at the rock quarry Thursday.
"A lot of the time it's military ordnance," adds Sgt. Denton. "We're finding a lot of vets from World War 2, Vietnam, are passing away, and they have brought back ordnance with them. We've come across hand grenades, rock quarries, things like that, where you will have thefts where people will steal explosives."
In fact Kentucky and Tennessee are the nation's hotbeds for those explosives lying around, simply because of how many rock quarries are here, according to Sgt. Denton. The explosions are usually underground there set off by low-explosive sensitive blasting caps.
"You're gonna come across this kind of stuff," Sgt. Denton says, holding up a thump-sized cap for dozens to see. "If you see this there's been a blasting cap somewhere around there. You'll see it at construction sites, you'll see them on the side of the road, again, where they've done blasting."
It's why they want these officers to recognize what they come upon from those blasting caps to suspicious packages.
Sgt. Denton offers a warning to the officers in training, one we can all learn from as well:
"If you think it's a bomb, looks like a bomb, don't take any chances, go ahead and call one of us to come look at it."