I watched the news reports last Wednesday from Platte Canyon High School in the small mountain town of Bailey, Colorado, with a bit of dread. (It was nothing like Columbine: some drifter took hostages, and killed one of them — a 16-year-old girl he didn’t know. He then shot himself.)
Not only was it a small mountain town in Colorado — and I live on a mesa in Colorado just outside a town of just 700, and so it felt pretty “close to home” — but I know the school well: I was a Red Cross volunteer during the summer of 2002, when Colorado was hit by a series wildfires in that area, and one of them started on the hill behind that very school.
I was stationed at the school as a liaison between the Red Cross and the fire officials who set up a command post at the school. My job was to keep Red Cross Denver Headquarters up-to-date on where the fire was going so shelters could be set up for evacuees.
A Different Way to Give Back
I’m no longer a Red Cross volunteer, but instead spend my volunteer time as the captain of the EMS First Responder Corps in my county. We have two ambulances in the county, staffed with top-notch people. Two ambulances …to cover 550 square miles of sometimes incredibly rough terrain.
Where I live, for instance, in good weather it takes about 25 minutes for an ambulance to arrive. So when there’s a call in my area, my team heads out and keeps the patient stable until the ambulance and advanced life support medics arrive to take over. In bad weather — well, it can take longer.
Our chief paramedic is big on training; that’s one of the reasons why the emergency medical response people here are top-notch. I used to be an advanced life support medic in California, but let all of my certifications lapse more than 20 years ago. Last year I re-certified at the first level (First Responder), and this year I’m upgrading to the next level (Emergency Medical Technician).
Classes started last week: 12 hours per week through the rest of the year. Plus drive time, plus clinical time, plus study time (first assignment: 100 pages of reading — which I somehow got done in time for the next class, 36 hours later.)
The point? First, it’s part of giving back to the world a bit, and there’s nothing more precious for me to give than my time. I have the experience and ability, and it’s really needed, so I’m doing it. A significant portion of the fire-fighting, medical response, and even law enforcement in this country is done by volunteers, and I’m proud to be a part of keeping my local community safe.
Watching the event at the school made me think of how I’d react if it happened in my small town, where they just opened a new school this fall. I have a feeling I know what the subject of our next monthly in-service training will be….
Anyway, the time commitment to upgrade my certification comes at a cost: less time for work on True. I’ve have always said I at least read my email — the comments you all send. I’ll continue to do that, but over the next few months I will be responding to an even smaller percentage than usual. I welcome your comments, but ask that if you do send comments, you really make them count.
By the way, your orders for subscription upgrades, books, and other items won’t suffer: I long ago turned orders and shipping over to an assistant. But please bear with me if you ask a question and it takes longer than usual for a reply.
October 2 Update
As I read the above again while adding it to tonight’s Premium edition, I see where I screwed up and gave a wrong impression: I said I’ll have “less time for work on True” — but that’s not quite what I meant. True‘s my job, so it will get done. What I’ll have less time for is the “non-essential” parts of my work: chatting with readers (though I’ll do it some, especially with Premium readers), researching and writing about some issue (like the recent essay about how passwords need to be more secure; I got huge response on that), and such.
But True will get done, every week, unless I get hit by a bus or something. (And …heh heh!… there is no bus service in my county!)
Naturally, even though I said I’d be really busy, I got comments on how busy I’ll be! And most of them contained really touching thanks for my volunteer work. I certainly didn’t tell you about it to get thanks; I just wanted to explain why some things (like email) might fall through the cracks a bit over the next few months. But some of the mail was indeed touching, and I’d like to share just a tiny bit of it with you.
I’m Not the Only One!
The first very touching message said he didn’t intend for it to be published, and even asked that it not be. But it was from a reader in Pennsylvania, who said he also had dropped out of the emergency services biz. Before he did, he had personally trained 800 people in CPR, plus more than 50 instructors. He absolutely loved it when he ran into students later who told them stories of how they had used what he taught them to save a life. One that he related: a teen who went on to save his own father. My reminding him that you can go back inspired him, he said, to go back too; he misses the good feelings he got. May he inspire hundreds more.
Many others related their own satisfaction with volunteering. Ed in South Carolina will represent them: “I’ve been a member of Civil Air Patrol, and an emergency services volunteer, since I was 15 (I’m 68 this year). And I wouldn’t surrender a minute of that time for a really big lottery win.” Satisfaction indeed.
Some lamented how ignorant some are. Mik in England: “Remember the forgotten heroes of 9/11? The police and firefighters were (rightly) praised for the work they did and for their sacrifices, but the EMTs were mostly forgotten. If I remember rightly, they lost proportionally more people than either the police or firefighters. In other words, they took the highest risks. And did they get the same recognition? Nope. *sigh*”
While none of us do it for the recognition, Mike, it’s still nice when someone remembers!
And the undersheriff of a rural Colorado county emailed too, to say thanks. “I can live with a late This is True, but without EMTs and Paramedics, people like me are less likely to live. Period.”
I really appreciate it when emergency service types know we all have to work together to get the job done. I spent two years as a responder for a small fire dept., and was a search & rescue sheriff’s deputy in rural northern California, so I’ve seen this thing from every angle. Too many have an “us vs. them” attitude, forgetting that it’s all of us that are doing it for “them” — for all of society. Sir, next time I’m in your county, I’ll stop by to thank you in person.
Of Course, There’s Always a Jerkwad
This time it was George in New Jersey, a comment addressed to “Mr. Wonderful”:
My gosh Randy, you are just a perfect human being. Your opinions are always right and anyone who thinks otherwise is a complete idiot.
No, George, that’s not quite right. It’s the people who won’t think that are idiots; not the ones who can’t, nor even the ones who have thought something through, but disagree.
So, is George an idiot? Probably not, even though he didn’t think — I don’t really believe he disagrees that we need people to volunteer, especially in emergency situations, but …well… he didn’t really think about what his message was, did he? He’s simply angry, and lashed out blindly. Maybe he’s that way all the time, which makes me hope he doesn’t work with people, like a school teacher — or an emergency services worker. Clearly, he’s got a problem, and I wish the best for him, but I’m not going to let his attitude affect me.
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