Thursday, July 22, 2010

For those who come running when we need them most

When I was a baby, my mother accidentally caused a fire on our stove at home. As legend has it - and since I'm still here to write about it - she managed to put it out herself and save me without too much damage being caused to the kitchen other than a new coat of paint and scrubbing down some walls.

Although the good people at the Moncton Fire Department weren't called in for this particular incident, they - like most other emergency and rescue operations in the world - spend their days saving people and property. As with many other emergency response organizations, they also proactively engage in education programs to teach us all how to remain safe in our homes, at play, at work and on the streets.

Whether you're a firefighter, police officer, member of search and rescue organization or a paramedic (by the way, please don't call them "ambulance drivers") you deserve the respect and gratitude of all citizens.

After all, when we're running away from a disaster or accident, you're running toward it. When we're sitting around in a daze or injured after being in an accident, you're helping us cope and care for our injuries. And when we're running out of a burning building, you're running in.

Luckily, I've never experienced the need to be rescued or treated in an emergency situation. Sure, there have been false alarms. I burned my pizza while living in an apartment building and the fire department showed up after I set off the alarm.

The other day at work, I called 911 by mistake while trying to call long distance and the police had to drop by to ensure we were OK. These first responders not only show up at real emergencies, they also show up when they think we're in trouble. That can only make us feel more secure.

I've known a few first responders in my life. These are people who we count on to show up when we're in trouble.

My uncle Cammy Cormier was with the Moncton Fire Department, as was my neighour Bob Auffrey. Years ago, I worked in the administrative arm of the RCMP's New Brunswick J' Division headquarters in Fredericton. It was always a beehive of activity; of people keeping our communities safe.

And on Facebook, my young friend Jordan Nowlan's passion for becoming a paramedic is evident. While Cammy and Bob are now retired, young Jordan's career is just beginning. I wonder how many fortunate people will be on the receiving end of his emergency medical care throughout his career?

How many fathers will he save from heart attacks, allowing them the privilege of walking their daughters down the aisle at their weddings? How many babies will he end up delivering for moms who can't make it to the hospital on time? How many seniors will put their safety in his hands as they're transferred between facilities for health care and treatment?

It takes a special person to be a first responder. You have to be brave. You have to be physically and mentally fit. You have to be responsible and intelligent.

You also have to have good judgment. One mistake could mean the difference between life and death - sometimes your own. You must be able to handle incredibly stressful and difficult situations. It can't be easy.

I can't imagine being a paramedic arriving upon a horrible car accident. Or a firefighter arriving at the scene of a fire only to find a mother hysterical at the fact that her children are still inside the house. But they don't complain. They leap into action and start their rescue operations immediately.

Or imagine a 911 call coming in on someone walking down the street carrying a gun. While we cower and run the other way, police show up to stop the perpetrator.

I'm old enough to vividly remember the days in 1974 when Moncton was gripped by the events that eventually saw the discovery of the bodies of two members of the Moncton Police Department- Corporal Aurèle Bourgeois and Constable Michael O'Leary, whose son went to Aberdeen School with me at the time.

I'll never forget the sense of doom and sadness over the city during those days that cast a horrible pall over that Christmas season and for the months to come during the trials of the murderers.

Many police officers, paramedics, firefighters and other rescue personnel have died in the line of duty. It is always shockingly sad when it happens, but it makes us that much more aware and grateful for the courage these people show toward their fellow citizens when we need them most.

In addition to the more traditional first responders, we can't forget the lifeguards who guard our pools and beaches. Security guards and bodyguards who keep property and people safe. Campus police who keep our university campuses safe. There are also the ski patrol, search and rescue, forest rangers, fisheries officers and emergency measures officials who all play a role in public safety.

We owe a lot to these brave men and women who have dedicated their professional lives and volunteer time to helping those in need. They aren't ones to say, this is none of my business' or I don't want to get involved' or I'm too busy right now.' They run in to help when others flee or don't have the skills to help and we're lucky to have them.

Whether you're a firefighter, paramedic, police officer or other first responder, we can only salute and thank you for your selfless service.

Although none of us ever wants to be in need of your help, we know that you'll be there if we need you, be it chasing down someone who just broke into our home, saving our life with CPR or entering a burning building to save a life when everyone else is running out.

Thank you.


DC Steeves said...

Hey Brian...

As always, another great article. Not just because I am one, and though we may not fall into the actual role of "first responder", soldiers, often by the nature of what they are and the training they've received, they too often are the actual first responders at vehicle accidents, then they end up giving way to EMTs, Paramedics, Police Officers and Firemen. Not to toot my own horn, but I travel between Trenton and Kingston on the 401 almost everyday, and over the past 4 years, I have been the first responder (before paramedics, police officers and firemen) for at least a half dozen accidents. A co-worker of mine named John has been at the scene of an accident as the first responder even more times than I have, and I personally know several others who have also been first responders at different accident scenes. Just thought I'd pass this on...D'


Brian Cormier said...

Yeah, Derrick... this particular column didn't mention the military, but they are more "non-traditional" first responders around here. My column focused more on "traditional" first responders. I've written very positively about the military in past articles, though. Thanks for the comment, though. There are many well-trained members of the military who've acted as first responders on many occasions and saved many lives, I'm sure! Thanks for pointing out that very valuable fact.