Trauger column: First responders deserve our support
Everyone remembers where they were and what they were doing when they heard the news. Time stood still. A plane. Flight 11, an American Airlines Boeing 767 carrying 92 people slammed into the North Tower of the World Trade Center.
Many of us watched in disbelief as United Airlines Flight 175 crashed into the South Tower. The news grew more horrifying as American Airlines 77 crashed into the Pentagon. The nation was in shock.
In addition to the passengers on the flights, and the victims in the towers, 412 first responders were killed in the line of duty that day. Over the next weeks, firefighters, paramedics, EMTs, police officers, construction workers and volunteers dug through the carnage to recover the remains of those who perished that day. Since then 173 firefighters and 172 police officers have died due to 9/11 related illness, and the toll continues to rise daily.
These men and women are heroes — national heroes. On the 17th anniversary of 9/11, we honor and remember them.
In our own communities, heroes also walk among us. These are our first responders; our firefighters, police officers, paramedics, deputies, EMTs and communications folks that we rely on when we need help.
This has been a tough year for first responders. Our area firefighters have worked alongside hotshots and others to nip several fires — fueled by severe drought — that could have had devastating impact on towns, ranches, farms, businesses and more importantly, human lives.
One Basalt volunteer firefighter, Cleve Williams, lost his home as he fought the Lake Christine Fire to save the homes of others. Our air was filled with thick acrid smoke most of the summer, and many of us had our important belongings packed and ready to be thrown into the car at a moment’s notice.
The Post Independent ran an article recently indicating that physical and mental fatigue is a risk factor among wildland firefighters. The same could be said of other emergency responders. Few of us will ever understand the demands that are placed on these men and women. For many of us, a bad day at work generally involves pressing deadlines, demanding bosses, unpleasant co-workers or complaining customers. When a first responder leaves home for his or her shift, they never know what they may face. On a daily basis, they deal with violence, fires, drug overdoses, exposure to toxic substances, personal threats, medical issues, trauma and death. They are charged with assessing situations and responding accordingly — often with limited information. Even the most mundane-appearing circumstance can take a deadly turn, as it did for two Colorado deputies earlier this year. Adams County Deputy Heath Gumm and El Paso County Deputy Micah Flick were shot and killed in the line of duty in January and February. They are just two of the 98 officers who have died in the line of duty in our nation so far in 2018.
A few years ago while I was on a ride-along with police, one officer told me that most people have no idea what kinds of things go on in our seemingly laid-back towns. The fact that we are blissfully unaware of the dark side of things is testimony to the efficiency and effectiveness of our first responders.
Once again this year, we have the opportunity to honor our local heroes as we observe the anniversary of 9/11. The Glenwood Springs Elks Lodge #2286 and the city of Glenwood Springs are joining together in honoring our first responders and communications personnel. Join us from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 11, in the plaza area between City Hall and the Garfield County Courthouse for Burgers for Badges. Officers, firefighters, deputies and their families eat for free. For others, a charge of $5 is requested.
Take time to sit down and have lunch with those that stay on watch while you sleep. A heartfelt “thank-you!” and letting them know you support them and how much you appreciate their efforts will make such a difference to them. And please extend that thank-you to their families. Let’s show them just how much we support our first responders. Show them that as a community, “We have your back!”
Kathryn Trauger lives in and writes from her hometown of Glenwood Springs. She has served the community as a member of Glenwood Springs City Council and chair of the Planning and Zoning Commission, and she currently serves as the chair of the city’s Financial Advisory Board. Her column, Perspective, appears monthly in the Post Independent. She may be reached at email@example.com or at 970-379-4849.