Monday, July 26, 2021

Niagara County’s volunteers provided hope in a natural disaster


If there was one thing that Niagara County residents can take from the powerful storm that besieged the center of the county on July 20th, led to a state of emergency and travel ban, and left infrastructure, businesses, and residences crippled in its wake it is this: We are blessed to have so many people who care enough about our community that they would willingly and freely give of their time and energy to protect people and property.


In the midst of the storm and the night and day that followed, dozens of caring volunteer firefighters and EMS personnel took on the natural disaster and its miserable outcomes. After a day’s work, these tireless men and women gave up their Tuesday evening, overnight, and Wednesday morning to direct traffic, pump out basements, cut fallen trees, tend to disabled people whose crucial medical systems went powerless, and conduct rescues of individuals and families trapped in flooded cars and homes. They were at it at all hours: The storm began just after 4:00 PM Tuesday; twelve hours later, I encountered on my morning drive scores of volunteers who were still diligently pumping out cellars.


Volunteers in the affected communities got little to no rest and when they did, they were spelled by volunteers from other parts of the county unaffected by the storm. That’s how powerful their sense of brotherhood is. And, that’s how strong their sense of duty is. They are there for their community, they are there for the world.   


That evening, the police scanner was busier than I’ve ever heard it. Our county was literally in a natural disaster. But, men and women answered all the calls. And they did all this, too, while no doubt worrying about how their home or how their parents’ homes were faring. That’s some serious self-sacrifice.  


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


The volunteers did everything within their power to make sure the damage of homes and workplaces was lessened, that the economy could keep going, public assets weren’t destroyed, and that nary a life was lost. Given how dramatic the floods were, the last point is especially remarkable: The so-called 100-year storm didn’t claim a single life.


That selflessness and success extends beyond that storm. Firemen, firewomen, and ambulance crews do this 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 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, 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 last week’s storm. Maybe she pulled you from a wrecked car. Maybe he stopped a fire from destroying your home.


If they didn’t do any of the above for you specifically, thank them anyways; it’s reassuring to know that they’re always ready at a moment’s notice to be there for you when you need them.


You can do that by donating to a local fire or ambulance company, becoming a volunteer yourself, or simply by uttering those two words they don’t hear enough – “thank you”.   


Volunteers love you.


Show them some love back.



From the 26 July 2021 Greater Niagara Newspapers and Batavia Daily News

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