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Columnist Sarah la Cour: Thankful for Amherst first responders



Wednesday, November 08, 2017

They are always there and always ready to help. They are always prepared to rush into a crisis rather than away from it.

They are our emergency personnel, first responders and public works employees who protect and care for all of us. Every day. In light of the recent terrorist attack on a bike path in New York, I’d like to take this opportunity to thank them for their service and dedication to the town of Amherst. Can you imagine our town or world without them?

Amherst police and fire men and women put themselves in harm’s way every day just by going to work. They leave spouses and families behind for “just another day at the office.” That office is the streets, buildings, people and every corner of Amherst.

Some days are quiet and safe. Others are filled with emergency calls and crisis after crisis. And some days are tragic. But each time they respond with the same professional, above-and-beyond, kind of service.

Although not providing life-and-death service on a routine basis, I’m including employees of the Amherst Department of Public Works in my thanks because they are often the front line of an emergency. With their chainsaws, snowplows and a variety of other equipment, they are clearing the way for our emergency vehicles in a major storm event. Depending on the situation, they may actually be the first to risk their lives to restore access across the community and resolve a dangerous situation.

When they are not facing these emergencies, Amherst has the great good fortune to have these individuals as active members of the community. We see them at functions for businesses, we see them walking the streets chatting with individuals and we see them engaging students in a cooperative exchange of ideas and problem-solving. And we see them at numerous meetings discussing how to keep our town and all of us safe. All part of their job and who they are.

Our first responders are warm, friendly, and approachable. They also seem tireless, although I would imagine they get very tired. From my desk at the Visitor Information Center, I hear numerous sirens every day. Since I don’t have a scanner, I’m not privy to the nature of each call but just going out on that many runs seems exhausting to me.

I imagine it is also hard to know exactly what you are facing in any given situation so you have to prepare for the worst. My armchair psychology suggests that this would be a tough issue day after day, especially since we know they are understaffed at critical times.

Thank goodness for mutual aid, but that doesn’t strike me as a long-term strategy. That’s just pulling resources from other communities and leaving them vulnerable. I know that this is currently under discussion and hope that there is a successful resolution soon and that we put a priority on our public safety resources.

Most of us are in blissful ignorance of the very serious issues that face our community every day and night, and the very real danger that our first responders face and the situations that they defuse with discretion and compassion. We are lucky to have a highly educated and trained group of emergency personnel and I am very grateful.

I will never forget the immediate response my husband and I received many years ago when our 5-year-old son passed out. To a set of frightened parents, they were literally a lifeline.

So, from a longtime resident, parent, coach, downtown business representative and middle-aged lady, thank you! That’s for everything you do every day. Your jobs aren’t easy and they can’t always be too much fun, but we depend on you.

Although Amherst often seems far from the fray of the violent broader world, tragedy can come in any way, at any time and I can’t imagine our town without you.

Sarah la Cour, of Amherst, is executive director of the Amherst Business Improvement District.