A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

Lynn James: The unexpected can (and does) happen, including car accidents; be grateful for first responders

The extreme summer heat is here and will probably stick around for quite a while. After all, we are in July, the height of the summer season and halfway through the year. Along with air conditioners blasting and swimming pools opening (finally and safely), summer trips are happening with more road trips planned than ever before.

Seems safer to drive these days with only family in the car than fly among others in an airplane.

It may seem safer, but it’s not always safer. During this time of year when we have periods of drought followed by light showers that slicken the road or unexpected and sometimes dangerous flash downpours, driving isn’t always as safe as we would like it to be. And with all the road construction going on these days, the last thing anyone needs is more problems when driving. But it happens.

In fact, once upon a time, such a car accident happened during one of those unexpected rain showers. Hydroplaning can happen without a driver’s intention or consent. The woman in the car was on her way to enjoy a long weekend trip with friends on a popular lake in Kentucky. What better place to be on a hot July weekend! A weekend of recreation, relaxation, and rejuvenation.

But she never made it to the lake. She was very close traveling a rural road which led to the dock… but then it happened. As cars of people came upon the accident scene, they didn’t know how to help. Many of them were also headed to the lake for a fun weekend trip and had not expected this detour along the way. Those first on the scene didn’t know what to do except be shocked by what they saw.

Turns out they didn’t need to know how to help because help was already on its way.

Not because someone called 911. No one had cell phones to call for help (yes, this was quite a while ago.) Even if they had cell phones, on-scene help arrived faster than that. One of the cars stopped in traffic was carrying four young volunteer firefighters and EMTs from Northern Kentucky. These guys were also headed for a weekend houseboat trip on the lake.

When they were stopped by the traffic backup and didn’t see any emergency lights flashing ahead, they walked up to the scene to see if they could help. Quickly they saw that they were the only help and very much needed. These four volunteer first responders took charge of the scene and saved at least one life that would not have survived without them.

Some may think the odds of this happening, rescuers arriving at the scene of an accident within minutes of its occurrence, is a coincidence – a rarity. Far from it. This type of “coincidence” happens all the time. Why? Because first responders are around us all the time without us even knowing.

It also happens because first responders are always ready and willing to respond. It’s in their DNA. It’s their calling. If they didn’t feel strongly about saving lives, they wouldn’t have signed up for these very stressful and dangerous responsibilities. Notice, I said “saving” others, not just “helping” others. Sometimes risking their own lives to do so.

Their expertise and willingness to save others is invaluable to us whether they are on duty or not, and whether they are retired or not. It’s because they always see themselves as “on duty.” And we are all grateful for that.

The woman in the car accident was grateful too and eventually had the opportunity to thank her first responders. That took some time since surviving a trauma is never as glamorous or as quickly accomplished as TV shows or movies portray. Surviving real-life traumas aren’t on a pre-defined time table. 

You will notice the four young firefighters/EMTs were volunteers in this line of service.

That’s true for most who enter these fields. They first serve as volunteers and risk their lives and their safety to save others. How many accountants do you know who are willing to do that?

These four young men then went on to achieve what most of those who begin as volunteers do. They turned their calling to save others into careers in the fire, emergency medical, nursing, and police services. And they continue to save lives to this very day.

So the next time you see one of these or any first responder in action, or on duty waiting for the next call, or on their own time enjoying life, just remember what they do for us instinctively every day of the year. She does, the woman described above, especially every hot July summer day.

So again this year, “Thank You” to Tim and Troy and Doug and Dave. Forever grateful….

Lynn James is a lifelong resident of Northern Kentucky and has lived in Boone, Kenton, and Campbell counties. She enjoys living and observing real life with real people.

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