Calendar year 2020 has been a rescuer’s challenge for extremes, from natural disasters, floods, massive forest fires, COVID 19 and all of its ramifications, over 20 named storms and hurricanes to date and the list goes on and on. Some folks begin to think in terms of apocalyptic epic disasters, and maybe they’re right. Two hundred thousand deaths from an organism one-billionth the size of a human body, extensive unemployment and business failures, people wondering where their next paycheck will come from, if they can keep their homes, pay utilities and bills, somehow keep their children in school — yet continue to be a rescuer.
On quite a few occasions, I have been asked to expound upon just what a “rescue person” is. That is a good question, to which I can address only through 47 years in volunteer rescue. I can best supply a definition through the writing of a man I met many years ago while attending the North Carolina Rescue College that used to be held in Durham, North Carolina at the Durham Public Safety Academy. It was written by a man who was serving as the chaplain at that time for the Durham Public Safety program, Mr. Tom Jordan. I think it is fair to say that he never realized the tremendous impact his words would have upon a young volunteer rescue man working hard to become a rescuer, but they did, and still do to this day.
This written dedication was read aloud to those in attendance at the North Carolina Rescue College during the closing ceremonies culminating a hard weekend’s training. These words I have used at funerals of rescuers, reading them aloud as part of the memorial services. I have presented framed copies to the family members, reminding them — as if they really needed reminding — of the tremendous life commitment required of a rescuer. You see, even though a rescuer is just a regular person like the rest of us, they are different. Different in that a rescuer is dedicated to helping friends or strangers at a time of great danger or peril, often at great personal risk, possibly never seeing again the person(s) they saved, but knowing that they did so not for self-gratification but because it was the right thing to do. Service before self. Helping our fellow man, our communities, and trying to make a difference in this world, utilizing the skills and knowledge learned over a rescue career. That, I contend, is a rescuer. Read these words carefully and reflect upon them. Is this who you are? Is this what you want to truly become? I hope so, because in my mind, it simply CANNOT be done any other way.
To you young people becoming rescuers, I challenge you to become this person. You can learn all the rescue skills available and know all the tricks of the trade; but to become one of “The Rescuers” you must do so in your heart and soul — every day. You have got to be willing to “put it all on the line.” This is who and what we are. It is the fabric of which we are made. And when you get too old and worn out to be the first man or woman off the truck, or over the cliff or waterfall, or the first SARTECH out into the woods, or first into the floodwaters — that’s OK too. But pass on the years of training and experience to the younger rescuers, like was done for us. We were young once, wanting to conquer the world of rescues head-on. Our older peers had to pass on the torches of knowledge to us, and yes, they had to “let go” and let us “whipper-snappers” perform rescues that they had done for many years. This is the natural evolution and progression of rescue. We survived, and so did our departments, so something had to have been done right!
So, read “The Rescuers” and go make a difference in this world.
Bob Twomey has been in the volunteer rescue service for 46 years, having served on five Rescue Squads from the coast to the mountains. He is currently a member of Transylvania County Rescue Squad, past Chief and Training Chief, an EMT for 45 years, and is an IFSAC and OSFM certified Rescue Instructor. Bob has been active in SAR, Mountain Rescue, and teaches high-level rescue. He is the chief pilot of Wolf Tree Aviation, and flies helicopter searches and rescue support locally. He is a Crew Chief for the NC Forest Service. He can be reached at 828-884-7174 or at email@example.com.