Volunteers are real life heroes

Published 10:04 am Tuesday, November 2, 2010

It’s late at night. You’re embracing a deep sleep, perhaps dreaming of soft, gentle waves lapping over your feet as you lie in the warm sand of a far-away beach.

But just as you reach for the tall, cold glass of an exotic tropical concoction, you are suddenly awakened from your dream world by the sound of a pager.

“Attention Fire and Rescue, Attention Fire and Rescue,” blares the dispatcher’s voice. “10-18/10-33 (extreme emergency) traffic. 10-50 (car accident) with multiple PI (personal injury) at XYZ Road.”

Such is the life of a member of any volunteer emergency response group.

Over the past few years we’ve witnessed the demise of volunteer rescue squads in Hertford County as government officials there opted to pay for a 24-7 staff of highly trained EMT’s. There’s nothing wrong with that, other than the fact that our friendly neighborhood rescue squad is no longer on call.

Bertie County uses a mixture of paid EMT’s and volunteers. Ditto for Northampton County.

North of the Chowan River, volunteers remain as the backbone of Gates County Rescue. That county also has a Junior Rescue organization, one training tomorrow’s volunteers today.

Meanwhile, the majority of fire departments here in the R-C area are comprised of volunteers.

In my job, I’ve covered hundreds of wrecks, fires and natural disasters from where I’ve witnessed the selfless acts of professionalism displayed by volunteer rescue squad members and firefighters. They are simple everyday citizens, just like you and I, until the sound of their pagers force them to hop out of a warm bed in the wee hours of the morning, or drives them away from the quality family time shared at the supper table, or even makes them race out of an important business meeting in order to come to the aid of perhaps total strangers.

To some victims, these volunteers in their neatly pressed jumpsuits and turnout gear represent the first line of defense against death. With countless hours of class work in order to meet certification standards plus years of on-the-job training, these volunteers are doctors, nurses and counselors all rolled into one package.

Their reward is the satisfaction that comes with anyone who volunteers their services for any organization, that of reaching out and helping in a time of distress.

What’s sad is that we’re losing these skilled volunteers, either by closing their station or through retirement. Many of our volunteers have served for decades; their time to relax and enjoy life is here.

What is happening to their potential younger replacements is the same thing that’s occurring in the majority of small towns all over our great nation. We’ve transformed into a society that has abandoned the strong morals and character handed down by our forefathers and are now fascinated by handheld electronic gadgets that rule our life. Who has time to help their fellow man when their Facebook page needs updating, or Farmtown to play, etc. etc, etc.

I, for one, totally appreciate the efforts of our volunteer emergency responders. I do not want to see you at my door, but I do take comfort in the fact that you’ll be there if I call.

Cal Bryant is Editor of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald and Gates County Index. He can be contacted at cal.bryant@r-cnews.com or 252-332-7207.

About Cal Bryant

Cal Bryant, a 40-year veteran of the newspaper industry, serves as the Editor at Roanoke-Chowan Publications, publishers of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald, Gates County Index, and Front Porch Living magazine.

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