In the span of 24 hours, a deputy police officer took his last breath, after attempting to clear debris from the road and getting hit. An officer took his last breath after being shot in the line of duty. A high school senior was tragically killed in a car accident. Three people were shot. And, we welcomed home the body of an American hero who lost his life while serving our country. All at different times, all in different places. And the city still buzzed, life continued.
To those that aren’t connected first hand with someone that is a first responder, works in law enforcement, is a volunteer responder, etc. this news may mean nothing. But to the families of the badge this is everything. You hear about line of duty deaths all the time on the news, but until it hits home in your own city, where you work, you often don’t realize just how possible the reality of it is.
For me this day brings chills up and down the back of my spine. I still refer to myself as a baby first responder as many of my co-workers and fellow first responders have far more years under their belt than I do. It makes the hair stick up on my arms just thinking about it. I know that everyday that I put on my uniform brings with it a higher possibility of being injured/taken from this earth but it’s not something I usually think about.
As I lace up my boots, grab my stethoscope, and put my shears on my belt I instead think about what the day will bring, in terms of those who I will possibly help. Thankfully most days I’m not put in a situation where I must consider the safety of my life, but those days do come. You never truly know what you’re walking into when you step foot into someone’s home, or you pull up on to the scene of the accident.
In school they always teach you that your safety is your first priority, but I know myself, and I know my coworkers. We are stubborn when it comes to these things. We see a patient, and we feel a need to help. I’m not saying that we ignore safety procedures and precautions but I do know that we will do everything we possibly can to save someone.
I don’t believe that we go into the job preparing to die. And maybe this is just my perspective. I believe we always know in the back of our heads that it is a possibility, but that drive to save a life in that moment is so much stronger than anything else.
I can’t speak on behalf of officers, or firefighters, but I do know that in that moment on the scene, or in the back of the truck nothing else matters in my life more than the life in front of me. Everything else for that time being gets put on hold, and you work your absolute hardest to keep that person alive, to get them where they need to be.
In the last year I’ve witnessed things that have made me question life more than once. I’ve left a shift, and the only word I’ve been able to formulate out of my mouth is “why”, and sometimes that doesn’t even make it out.
You see this job, it’s so much more than just “fixing”, most of the time we don’t even fix the problem, we just try to manage it. You rarely ever have just one patient, because even when only one person is sick or injured they still have a family. And more likely than not you will need to deal with the family as well. Often times this can be even more stressful than dealing with the patient. And at the end of the day I understand.
Nobody wants to get a call hearing that their loved one has been injured. I sometimes forget that when I pick up a phone of a patient, I am about to deliver some of the worst news the person on the other end of the phone could hear. My job is showing up to people’s worst nightmares. Again, and again. There will always be another call, there will always be another patient in need.
There isn’t a stack of paperwork, that when you get to the bottom of it that job is done. Someone will always be in need of our help. And if it’s not in my city, it’s in someone else’s.
Trauma and illness knows no boundaries, it doesn’t discriminate, it happens when you least expect it. It’s ugly, and it’s hard, it hurts, and it haunts. But we show up, because that is our job. That is the why.
We all have our own ways of coping, for some it’s going home to a family, or a pet, for others it’s exercising, or traveling. Someway or another we find an escape. But there are bound to be the calls that no matter how hard you try to put them out of your mind they will continue to haunt you.
Yesterday our city experienced a multitude of those calls. The first responders witnessed images that will forever be stuck with them. The departments suffered an unimaginable loss. But the families, the families will experience the ultimate tragedy, as they will forever be missing a piece to their puzzle.
As they reach milestones in their lives they will look for their father, their husband, their brother, their cousin to share the memory with, but he is no longer here. He gave the ultimate sacrifice, he gave his life.
“Greater love hath no man than this, than a man that lay down his life for his friends.”
Lieutenant Aaron Allen, thank you for your service, your sacrifice, and your dedication to this city. You paid the ultimate price for someone’s foolish decision. You gave your life for 20 years to our country, you returned home and continued to serve, and our city was honored to have you.
Deputy Chief James Walters, thank you for your service, and your dedication to our city. You served for 30 years, and lost your life trying to protect our motorists. We will forever be grateful for your commitment to safety.
Ryan Lohrey, thank you for your commitment to protecting our country. You did what many citizens of this country don’t have the courage to do. You defended our citizens in one of the greatest ways known to man.
Men, may you rest easy now. Your job is done, we will take it from here. You will never be forgotten, and your legacy will always live on. We will support your families, and your children for as long as we may live. You are heroes, to not only this city but this country. May we live courageously in pursuit of the safety and wellbeing of our neighbors as you have.
And may we never forget that this world is far greater than our self. We are a minuscule piece of this puzzle. We are mere flecks of life in a giant atmosphere.
It is our duty to leave this earth better than we found it, and these three men did just that.