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 A week ago today, i started noticing a number of condolence messages popping up on my Facebook feed, indicating that someone I used to know had died. This prompted me to do an internet search for news about the accident that was referenced in those posts. What I found was more than a bit of a shock. My old friend, Rod, had been killed in an accident, along with two other employees of the ambulance company he worked for when their car drove under a jackknifed tractor-trailer on the interstate between Syracuse and Watertown, in upstate New York.

I knew Rod from my time at Clarkson University, when I joined the Potsdam Volunteer Rescue Squad. I took my EMT class with his wife, Patsy, during the fall semester of my junior year, right after I joined the squad. The next autumn, I took my Advanced EMT-Intermediate class with Rod. He was one of my mentors in the squad, and I considered both him and his wife to be friends. I have fond memories of time spent hanging out with Rod at the rescue squad during my senior year at Clarkson. I even returned to Potsdam a couple of times during the first couple of years after I graduated to visit.

However, the distance proved to be too great an obstacle in that pre-World Wide Web world, and I mostly lost touch with them. Eventually, we reconnected on Facebook, but he was apparently not one of those people who spent lots of time there, so our Facebook connection was mostly symbolic. For my part, I felt some nostalgia for my college/rescue squad days when I saw his name, but otherwise there was no real connection to his current life. Specifically, I did not know that he had begun working for R.B. Lawrence Ambulance, a private ambulance company that provides inter-facility medical transport services for the North Country region of New York, and certainly did not know that he had become an EMS Supervisor for the company. I have no idea how active he was with the Potsdam Rescue Squad, but during my time there, I know he was a huge part of the organization. Given what I know about him, I know that he was a huge asset to the emergency services in the communities up there.

This week, I have watched Facebook fill up with notes and photos from his funeral.  It is clear that he was widely respected and that his sudden passing was a shock to the community.  These photos of the funeral procession moved me deeply:


The other surprise were the photos that showed that members of the FDNY Pipes and Drum Corps came up from New York City to pay their respects to a fallen brother. And the photos of the funeral procession passing underneath the giant US Flag hanging between the extended towers of two ladder trucks from different fire departments brought tears to my eyes. This was a funeral on a magnitude that is probably unprecedented in these small communities, and I think it shows just how widely spread the reaction to this tragedy was felt.

There was just no way for me to be able to attend the funeral myself, but I am comforted by the images of the massive outpouring of support. Rod dedicated his life to helping his community, and the community went to great effort to acknowledge his work on their behalf. Well done, all. Rest in peace, Rod. You will certainly be missed.

(no subject)

Jul. 9th, 2010 10:28 pm
resqgeek: (Default)
I'm watching the local news (instead of getting the sleep I know I need...), and there was piece about the opening of Donald Trump's newest golf course: the Trump National Golf Club, Washington, DC. This course used to be called the Lowes Island Golf Club and is located out in Loudoun County, in a subdivision that was under construction when I was still an active volunteer with the Sterling Rescue Squad. I remember visiting this golf course back when it was brand new, driving an ambulance along the golf cart trails as we tried to evaluate our access to the course if we were dispatched for a call there. I guess the original golf club was a victim of the economic downturn, which allowed Mr. Trump to acquire the property and invest in it. It sounds like he's trying to attract a PGA tournament to the will be interesting to see if he can be successful.
You've seen them, the crosses and flowers by the side of the road. Memorials to lives cut short in violence of a auto collision. They've become part of the landscape in the last couple of decades, marking dangerous intersections and deadly curves. They're now so common that they're easy to ignore. But with each memorial is associated with an untimely death, the grief of family and friends, and should serve as a reminder of the dangers we face in our cars.

I came face-to-face with the automobile fatalities fairly early in my life. I joined my local volunteer fire department when I turned 18, and the very first auto accident I responded to was a fatality. A man with a history of driving under the influence fell asleep at the wheel on his way home from a bar. His car drifted across the double yellow lines on a curved stretch of road and his drove underneath the trailer of a tractor-trailer truck headed the other way. He never woke up.

In the decade that followed, I responded to many other incidents involving motor vehicles, many of them fatal. Somewhere along the way I began to shield myself from the pain. I thought I had stopped feeling for the people who die in these accidents, especially the ones who die from their own mistakes. I was wrong.

Yesterday, a friend of mine posted a blog entry about witnessing a fatal accident while visiting her father in Florida. She has written a deeply moving piece about someone she had never met and it brought tears to my eyes. I felt a need to share her story here as well. Her entry is also available here on livejournal in a syndicated feed I created:

So, the next time you drive by one of the many memorials on the side of the road, take a moment to reflect on the life that was lost. And ask yourself if you are being as careful as you could be...

Sometime around midnight Saturday night, a Maryland State Police helicopter flying a medivac mission crashed near Andrews Air Force Base. The helicopter had been enroute from an auto accident in Waldorf, Maryland to Prince George's Hospital Center. Because they were transporting two seriously injured patients from the accident, a 39 year-old volunteer EMT from the Waldorf Volunteer Fire Department volunteered to ride along and assist the State Police Paramedic with patient care. The investigation into the crash continues, but it appears that weather played a role.

The volunteer EMT, Tonya Mallard was near the end of her volunteer shift at the time of the auto accident and was among the first rescue workers on the scene. Mallard had been a volunteer EMT since 2004, and was the mother of two sons, ages 11 and 15.

Also killed in the helicopter crash was civilian pilot Stephen Bunker, State Police paramedic Mickey Libby and one of the two teenage patients.

More details from the Washington Post:
Back in the day, when I was still an active EMT, people used to ask me what it was like. How do you explain what it feels like to work on an ambulance? Do you focus on the boredom of the waiting between calls, or the frustration when we have to transport a patient who really doesn't need an ambulance? Its easier to talk about those rare calls where someone's life hung in the balance and we actually could make a difference. This, usually, is what people want to hear about. But the one thing we almost never talk about is fear. Sometimes there are patients who are in serious danger, and nothing we do seems to help. The feelings of helplessness and fear in these situations is something most of us don't want to dwell on, and even have trouble expressing. However, Tom Reynolds, an EMT with the London Ambulance Service maintains a blog about his work, and earlier this week posted an entry about an asthmatic child that really captured these feelings, at least as I remember them. If you really want to know what it is sometimes like to work on an ambulance, read that entry, and you'll get a bit of an idea.
Let's see, I've been to the Canaan Valley Resort three times in the last twelve months, and on each of the last two trips, I've witnessed/assisted injured skiers (I told the story of the first on here). This time it happened early on the first day of our stay. We were riding up the chairlift, and had just commented about how foggy it was getting at the top, when we saw a young lady take a spill on a moderately steep (and very icy) slope. She lost both of her skis, and slid, feet first, about a hundred feet down the mountain and off the trail, coming to rest in the brush beside the trail. My wife called to her, to see if she was okay. She heard us, but I couldn't here her reply. Since she didn't seem to be getting to her feet right away, we decided I would ski down to her, to see how she was and to bring her skis down to her. My wife would stop at the ski patrol hut at the top of the mountain, and let them know that she might be hurt. I had just reached her first ski, when a patroller pulled up behind me. I pointed out where the skier was sitting (she was quite hard to see, between the fog and the brush), and he took the ski and headed down to her. I didn't see her other ski, but I knew she'd lost both, so I slowly made my way down to her, looking for the missing ski. I found it about halfway down to her, sitting off the side of the trail. I headed down to the skier, and helped the patroller with his assessment, until his reinforcements arrived. Somewhere in the middle of all that, the patroller suggested that I should join the patrol! If only it wasn't a more than three-hour drive to get there...

(no subject)

Jan. 5th, 2006 10:18 am
resqgeek: (Default)
I really haven't posted much about my days as an EMT. Its not that there aren't stories to tell, because there are (in fact I keep hoping that someday I'll actually finish the memoir of my EMS career I started more than a year ago). I've been out of action as an EMT for eight years now, but I still love a good story from the streets. I recently noticed a link on [ profile] suellenr's LJ to a blog that looks to keep me well fed with these stories. Night Runs is a blog maintained by some of her firefighter and paramedic friends. From what I've read so far, it is very well written, and provides some wonderful insights into what its like on the streets as a firefighter or EMT. I've found it very entertaining so far. If you'd like a taste of what my life was like before I became a family man, you should check it out. (I've added a LJ syndicated feed at [ profile] night_runs, so you can add it to your friends page, if you're interested.)
Yesterday was a beautiful day, and I had some errands to take care of, so at lunch time I found myself out for a stroll in Old Town Alexandria. As I was heading back to the office, I could hear a siren in the distance, faintly at first, but steadily growing louder as it drew near. Soon, I could clearly distinguish between the louder, persistent wail of the mechanical siren and the underlying oscillation of the electronic siren. Suddenly, with a blast of its air horn, Engine 205 came around the corner and screamed past me on the way to its call. I found myself reveling in the noise: the growl of the big diesel engine, the screaming sirens and the occasional blast from the air horn. My entire body was covered with goose bumps.

Listening (and watching) emergency vehicles is such a guilty pleasure for me. Intellectually, I know that these sirens mean someone is in trouble, that bad things have happened. But the sound of it just thrills me to my very core. My pulse quickens and I become more alert, more observant. Its at moments like these that I get most nostalgic for my days as an EMT. I remember when I was the one driving the ambulance through the heavy suburban traffic, weaving my way through any opening I could find, blasting the air horn at the unyielding traffic. The challenge of balancing speed against safety, of constantly trying to anticipate the reactions of the other motorists, made each run an adventure. And the siren provided a constant soundtrack.

I've been out of the emergency services for almost eight years now, but sometimes when I hear a siren, I still find myself drawn to it. The pull isn't quite as strong as it used to be, but it is still there, and I often find myself searching for the source of the sound, trying to see what's happening, secretly wishing I still had a role to play in the unfolding drama. Maybe someday I'll be able to become active again, but in the meantime, I'll enjoy the thrill the sirens give me while remembering to say a prayer for those for whom the sirens sound.
Ok, so its day two of our all-too-brief stay in West Virginia, and we spent the entire day on the mountain skiing. The sun was out today, and it was a bit warmer. The snow softened up enough to be forgiving, but never really became slushy. A great day for skiing. We all had a good time, though we all could have used some sun screen, as we all sunburned our faces.

My adventure du jour )