By John Lee Hurt.
Imagine a silent night. You’re asleep in your bed dreaming about your family, your next fishing trip, your upcoming weekend. You’re at peace. All of the sudden you spring awake to an alarm going off. It’s not 6:30 and you’re not at home. It’s 2:30 a.m., and the loud speakers projecting the alarm is throwing a ton of in-formation at you about a house fire or a shooting or a wreck. You’re confused, but reflexes and instincts luckily kick in. It’s time to go save the day.
That’s a world that firemen, emergency medical technicians and paramedics know all too well. It’s a world that not many people see and even less understand. In today’s world, the first responders, once praised as heroes, are now forgotten. Cops use to be the strong protector you could trust with your life. Maybe you couldn’t trust them with your box of doughnuts, but you could trust them with your life. They’d chase the bad guys and make the big save after the bank robbery or come at the right time to take away the abusive dad. Now, thanks to the news, cops are seen as cold-blood-ed killers who would rather shoot you than look at you.
To quote our president, that is fake news. A cop still does that. They’ll take a bullet for you. They run towards the sound of gunfire like the Marines.
And it’s almost like EMTs and paramedics are seen “taxi drivers,” performing a job that Uber or Lyft can do. Yeah right. I want to see the Lyft driver and his friend come get you in the middle of the night from a dead sleep after only being out 30 minutes and give you medications to keep you alive. They won’t.
They also won’t climb into your totaled car to protect your neck while the firemen free you so you can walk again after you drove home drunk from the Press Box. The Uber driver won’t hold your dying daughter in their arms and do their best to revive her while staying strong as she slips away. The Ambulance crew will. Then they’ll go back to the station and ball their eyes out because they have a daughter or niece the same age.
We used to know that firemen would do everything from getting the cat out the tree to running into a burning house to save little Timmy. Now they’re womanizers and adrenaline junkies who take pleasure in your misfortune. More fake news. Firemen are gentle giants. The hands that rip a door off the hinges to save a trapped person in a fire are the same hands that help the little ones or the elderly on a medical call.
A house fire burns at upwards of 1,100°, so it takes a lot of courage (or a lot of insanity) to rush in and save a stranger. They’ll do it, though. They’ll lay down their lives for you. Don’t believe me? Ask the families of the 343 firemen who died on September 11, 2001. They’ll proudly tell you about the ultimate sacrifice made.
First responders see the absolute worst. When they show up, someone’s day is going horribly wrong. They see people at their most vulnerable times when everything is falling apart. An unwritten part of their job description is to walk into your personal hell and pick the pieces up and put them back together.
Seeing people at their worst leads to the worst over time. According to USA Today, in 2017, more police officers and firemen died of suicide than they did line-of-duty deaths. More cops are taking their own life than bad guys are. More firemen are killing themselves than those dying in a fire. The Journal of Emergency Medical Services surveyed 4,000 first responders and 6.6% attempted suicide. That is 10 times more than the general population.
We have to do something as a society to correct the stigmas that have been placed on these heroes. If we don’t, there may not be any heroes left.