Monday, July 29, 2013

Be thankful for fire and EMS volunteers

If there was one thing that Niagara County residents can take from the powerful storms that besieged the western end of the county on July 19th and left its infrastructure and residences crippled for anywhere from 12 to 36 hours, it is this: We are blessed to have so many people who care enough about our community that they would willingly give of their time and energy to protect its people and property.

At a time when so many others complained about the alleged misery placed upon them by Mother Nature’s fury (no televisions or computers! Gasp!), dozens of caring volunteer firefighters and EMS personnel did something about the natural disaster and its truly miserable outcomes. These men and women gave up their Friday night and entire Saturday to direct traffic, pump out basements, fight electrical fires, cut fallen trees, and tend to disabled people whose crucial medical systems went powerless.

They got little rest and when they did, they were spelled by other volunteers from the other side of the county who were unaffected by the storm. That’s how powerful their sense of brotherhood is. And, that’s how strong their senses of duty and community are.  

They don’t do this for pay. They don’t do this for benefits. They don’t do this for glory. They give their time, free of charge, and risk their lives because they want to. They’re volunteers. They are only interested in the rewards of their efforts -- that is, safe property and healthy people.

While the rest of our population went about their usual weekend business, the volunteers did everything within their power to make sure they were afforded that chance. In turn, the volunteers gave up their own weekends. Some skipped out on family picnics, sons’ baseball games, or a round of golf, all so others didn’t miss out on the same. To make that happen, they ensured that the roads might be open or safe to travel and homeowners’ basements might be cleared.

That selflessness didn’t -- and doesn’t -- exist only for that storm. The firemen, firewomen and ambulance crews do this daily. Like good doctors, they are on call 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Houses never catch fire, cars never collide and people never take ill at a “convenient” time. Those circumstances happen at any time the fates desire. And, it’s these folks who respond, speeding away from family dinner, sleep, an exciting NFL game or their paying job to save the day. They are America’s true super heroes, only they change into firefighting gear or EMS uniforms -- not colorful capes and masks -- and go unnamed and unrecognized.

Usually it takes a disaster that’s national in scope or coverage, like a 9/11 or a Boston Bombing, to make civilians appreciate our first responders. Why should it? Our volunteers shouldn’t be taken for granted because they are out there making a difference each and every day, in every neighborhood across this country.

So, if you haven’t lately, thank a volunteer for what he or she has done. Maybe he helped you during the storm. Maybe he pulled you from a wrecked car. Maybe she stopped a fire from destroying your home. If they didn’t do any of the above for you specifically, thank them anyways; for it’s reassuring to know that they’re always ready at a moment’s notice to be there for you when you really need them. They love you. Show them some love back.

Gasport resident Bob Confer also writes for the
New American at Follow him on Twitter @bobconfer.

This column originally appeared in the 29 July 2013 Greater Niagara Newspapers

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