Work With Me: 'Two Sisters Protecting the City'

"GMA" goes to work with sisters and civil servants of Milwaukee.

Nov. 8, 2010 — -- In a community battling crime, in a profession dominated by men, two sisters -- one a police officer, the other a firefighter -- put their lives on the line to save lives in Milwaukee.

Despite their 7-year age difference, 30-year-old Kate Gebhardt and 23-year-old Emily Gebhardt are about as close as two sisters can get.

Emily says she definitely worries about her sister out on the street. "You see everything on the news where a cop got shot or, you know, you always just wonder, is that my sister? And I'm sure she thinks the same."

Both sisters started their civil service careers right out of high school, fulfilling their dreams to protect the city they grew up in and taking on the challenges of entering mostly male professions. Women make up just over 15 percent of police officers in the U.S., and the number of female fire fighters is even lower, at just 3.4 percent.

"They see my size and they don't think I can do the job," said the 5 feet, 5 inches-tall Emily, before replying to skeptics: "You should see what I could do."

Though she worries, their mother, Wendy Gebhardt, is so proud of them that she wanted to share it with "GMA." "I wrote the letter to 'GMA' because I thought, wouldn't it be great to see two sisters protecting the city? And it's unusual to have sisters on the job," she said.

"GMA" asked our viewers to tell us about their jobs and what they do to make ends meet in today's tough economy. We joined our lucky winners for a day on the job.

Kate has been a police officer for nine years. She works the evening shift in the highest crime area of Milwaukee, but it is the beginning of her night on the job that is the toughest: saying goodbye to her three children before starting her 4 p.m. to midnight shift.

"It's very hard [to say goodbye to the kids and go to work]. You know, there might be a night I don't come home. You don't want them to know that but you know, you always watch yourself for that reason because, it could happen. Anything could happen."

Click here to read the letter the Gebhardt's mother submitted to enter her daughters in the Work With Me series.

One Sister is Inspired By the Other

Since the recession, Kate says, the situation on the streets seems to have grown more desperate.

Though crime has dropped overall in Milwaukee -- now the fourth poorest city in the nation -- homicides have spiked this year over the previous two.

"The crime level has risen…You can feel it. There's a lot of entries, burglaries, robberies, stuff like that," said Kate. And even those who protect the city feel the impact of budget cuts that come with a bad economy.

"We've had to take two furlough days, which every day, it's probably close to around $200 to $250 that you lose. When you're raising three kids by yourself, $500 is ... a lot of money."

The Milwaukee Fire Department has also been affected by the bleak economy. Budget cuts have forced engine crews to cut back from five firefighters to four, and the department has implemented temporary shutdowns, or "brownouts," of two firefighting companies across the city a day.

Kate's fearless spirit inspired her little sister, Emily, to join the civil service. Emily went from prom queen to firefighter. At 23, she's now the youngest female firefighter in the city of Milwaukee.

When asked why she wanted to become a firefighter, Emily said, "I like risk, I guess. Going into fires and rescuing people is just, it's awesome."

It's a dangerous job, she added. "But you get over it mentally, you know, you're like, it's my job, you gotta do it, and you feel gratitude at the end of the day that you can do it."

Click here to read the letter the Gebhardt's mother submitted to enter her daughters in the Work With Me series.