The hour could start like any other. You might be cooking dinner, or catching the evening news, or just pulling into the driveway after a long day at work. In my case, on Thursday night, I was browning some beef for a batch of chili. There was a Christmas CD on the stereo. Outside, it had been snowing most of the day – but the weather was finally taking a turn for the better. I could see the back yard through the kitchen window, complete with shadows cast by the trees in the moonlight.
As the garage door went up, a full moon and a starlit sky greeted me. I put the car in drive and clicked through my five-second checklist one more time. The stove is off, the house is locked and I have my boots and rig coat. Rolling down the driveway, I picked up the mic on my car’s two-way: “Portable one … put me on the crash job along with two-nine. Enroute now.” Glancing over my shoulder, I watched the garage door touch down.
Accelerating past my neighbors’ homes, I couldn’t help but think about how lucky we all are. Most of the houses were warmly lit – downstairs windows glowing invitingly, decorated for Christmas. Practically out of a Norman Rockwell painting. Heck, Norman was still painting when most of these places were built.
What my neighbors didn’t know – and what was farthest from the minds of nearly everyone else in our town or our county – was that minutes before, a girl lost control of her pickup truck, spun around and smashed into a utility pole. Along with me, at least ten other people were now heading towards her. They are the one-percenters.
Most people don’t think about calling 9-1-1 until they actually have to do it. The ambulance base, or the fire house, or the police station is just something that’s always there. Ask them what it’s like to respond to the calls for help that most people turn away from in fear, or in pity, or in disgust – and you’ll probably get a line about how it “must be exciting to use those lights and sirens”. They don’t know what it’s like to leave a warm home and drive on slick roads to climb into the crushed cab of a truck and work on a patient who’s cold, injured and afraid. And they don’t know how it’s worth it to come home to a cold supper afterwards, and pick broken windsheild glass out of your clothes while you wait for the microwave.
I’m not looking for thank-yous, and I’m not out for recognition of what I and many others do. I’m only writing this to remind you that we’re here for you. We only ask that as you celebrate your chosen holiday this season, and you consider all the ways in which you’re fortunate – and we all have lots of ways – please include us on your list. Because even now, we’re waiting to catch you if you fall.