A community’s First Responders are among its best and least celebrated members.
That’s why it is particularly appropriate for us to stop a minute and think through what they do for us during this week when we mark First Responder Appreciation Day.
In 20 years of reporting community news, I have come to love the type of people willing to do what they do, which might be just about anything ugly or messy.
I group First Responders with law enforcement, firefighters and rescue squad workers because my experience in the 1980s was an effort by South Carolina counties to specifically train and designate people for the role. The idea back then was that a volunteer firefighter or law officer would likely be close to one of his or her neighbors who needed help. The ambulance or firetruck might be back at the station, but counties had large groups of people in these firefighters and law officers who were scattered around and had the basic skills necessary. With some additional training, anyone, particularly anyone in law enforcement or who worked for a fire department or rescue squad could make significant improvements to emergency response times.
Response time can be critical to a bleeding car accident or heart attack victim. Minutes early on can make a huge difference.
First Responders save lives every day.
As a reporter, I have grown close to many of these people who are great community servants who do their thing, they say, because they believe they should, or because they enjoy helping their neighbors, or because they may need help one day. Most of the ones I have known have been volunteers.
In the 1980s, volunteer firefighters got a whopping $5 per call to cover expenses for them to leave work or home sometimes for hours.
It might be a pleasant fall day or it might be a pitch black, dark, freezing cold night in February. These good neighbors would get out of warm beds and go help somebody.
They might crawl inside burning buildings, lay healing hands on a spurting blood vessel of a wreck victim or administer CPR to someone they had never met. Then they would stay around to make sure the fire was out and sweep up the broken glass on the pavement.
I don’t want to be without them. We all need to say thank you.