Emergency workers face danger here, too

Published 10:47 am Sunday, April 14, 2002

By Staff
By: Brian Blackley
The New York City firefighters were beneficiaries of a tremendous outpouring of love and support in the wake of what suffered through following the Sept. 11 tragedy. It was as if, at that moment, those of us viewing from afar came to know and understand the danger those brave men and women face. And sadly, that danger claimed too many lives.
But the reality of what happened hit closer to home than New York City for those of us who live in South Alabama when a Baldwin County mother of two and Bon Secour firefighter perished earlier this week.
Edna Faye Bishop, 29, was riding in a truck en route to a grass fire when the vehicle flipped and killed her.
According to a story in the Mobile Register, her friends and colleagues said she was one of the most enthusiastic firefighters they knew. She also worked at a motel in Foley in order to support her young son and daughter.
While her death is not the kind of death that comes to mind when we consider the dangers of firefighting n indeed fire and smoke were not responsible for her death n it does bring home an interesting point. The men and women who protect us do so at great personal sacrifice and risk and the financial rewards that come from the job in no way reflect the level of service and commitment that these people offer us.
I often wonder how many fires a firefighter has to put out to earn his or her $20,000 a year. How many robberies or potential fatalities does a policeman have to stop before he or she earns his or her keep? How many lives must a trooper save by stopping reckless drivers and speeders until he or she justifies a salary? How many people does an ambulance worker have to get to the hospital "in time" to be worth his or her dollars?
My answer is that it doesn't even take one avoided fatality for those folks to be worth their weight in gold. It isn't about money. And it doesn't have to be about saved lives.
It's insurance. Security. I am happy that my tax dollars are spent so I can walk out of my office late at night in relative safety thanks to our policemen who are on the streets. I'm grateful that my home and my family will be protected by firefighters who are minutes away should a catastrophe strike. I am thankful that an ambulance is available for me and for my family if the worst happens.
In my life, unfortunately, I have had a need for all of these people for some reason or another. Thankfully, my situations weren't worst-case scenarios, but they brought needs, nonetheless.
I was in a terrible accident when I was in college in which I sustained some pretty painful, but minor injuries. Two years ago, my wife and I thought we smelled smoke and called the fire department. It, too, was minor. It turned out to be something in our ventilation system that was causing the problem. Through work, I have had the need for police officers before, too. Once, I called about a phone threat to an employee. Another time, I called when a customer harassed an employee. Both times the threats were taken seriously and were handled professionally by the officers.
It's not hard to have confidence in people who do such worthwhile work, even when there is, in a best case scenario, a shortage of work for them to do.
And when those people are napping at the fire station, washing their trucks, sitting quietly in police cars in a vacant lot clocking cars that aren't speeding, or kicking back somewhere waiting for the next ambulance call, we should thank them most.
Their work in educating people may be the reason they aren't fighting fires. Their presence on our streets may be an incentive to motorists to keep the speed down. Their work in health may have prevented a call to transport a person with a medical condition to the hospital.
As we all continue to be reminded of the images of September 11 and of the potential for danger those emergency workers faced, let us not forget the contributions our local heroes make to our communities. They provide a net of safety to so many of us with such varied needs.
Edna Faye Bishop's life and death are a testament to that courage and to the real danger these people face in order to keep us from harm. And while Atmore may be safer in many ways than New York City, the danger is real.

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