I’m watching the news, and there it is, again and again: Firefighters, medics, and police putting shattered bodies and psyches of the people who survived the killings back together. Manchester, Orlando, London, San Bernardino, Paris, New York, Germany . . . .
The people who survive the attacks live through the most horrific moments imaginable. They do not do so alone. Within minutes of the event, trained, competent, and heroic personnel are on scene putting the very foundations of civilization back together. We are firefighters. We are paramedics and EMTs. We are the police. We are human beings with the same response to senseless killings as the people who bear the brunt of the crimes. We, too, are horrified. We, too, feel helpless. We, too, are demoralized by what has become of the world we know has the potential to be a much better place.
We stow those fears, the disappointment and revulsion away, to be dealt with when the time is right, and take care of business. People rely on us not only to stop their bleeding, splint their bodies, and take them away from the bloodshed but to reassure them that humanity has not receded into chaos. The presence of another person who overcomes their fear and revulsion to be by their side affirms in them the very essence of what humankind is, who we have become and who we will be hundreds of years from now.
We personify decency.
Terror has no place in the mind and actions of the first responder. We are the antithesis of terror. We are representatives of the potential of humanity–the kindness, compassion, competence, and care that far outshine the hatred, resentment, and cruelty that precipitate our arrival. People need reassurance when the world around them implodes–not only the people who are unfortunate enough to be present during an attack but the millions who feel helpless as the drama unfolds and they become aware of the latest attack as well. The feeling of helplessness is overwhelming as information is released and the checklist in our heads begins: Where are the people I love? Are they safe? Is danger coming my way? Am I prepared?
Through it all, they know that no matter what, people will respond. Knowing that those people are us makes the long hours away from home, the daily grind, the political battles we must endure, and all that goes with being on the front lines at home well worth the struggle.
There is evil in this world, and it is on display far too often; yet, in spite of the terror, there exist courage, dedication, and perseverance, and I know that although terror will always exist, it will always be overcome by what we represent. We are the fortunate ones. We have the opportunity to bring balance back to a world that loses its faith in the future. If ever people need something to rally around in times of trouble, they need to look no further than their local paramedics, police, and firefighters. We may not be on the front lines in the war against terror, and God bless those who are, but our contribution to that war cannot be overstated. Without a place to call home we have nothing, and it is my privilege and honor to be part of group of people who put on a uniform and stand for something other than aggression, ideology, and power.