For most people, most of the time, the lives and jobs of first responders are far from mind. And it’s more than understandable because the day a first responder is needed is usually a stressful – or outright terrifying – day.
And yet, those are their days every day – 24/7/365.
First responders make our worst moments their life’s work, and they spend every minute of every day waiting in the wings for when we need them most. It’s difficult for most people to appreciate the profession – and especially their passion for it – when you’ve never experienced it yourself. Like most people, my idea of even the longest work day never strays too far outside of 9-5 hours, and high stakes moments in my job usually come in the form of emails and spreadsheets – not life and death.
The only thing that’s clear to me from my time working at SafeCities™ is that there’s no replacement for living and breathing in the public safety environment. It’s a humbling fact, especially when our clients share with us their stories from the day – such as pulling someone from a burning car – or when my coworkers with decades of experience as first responders recall memories from the job that don’t have the happy ending we'd all hope to hear. There’s no way to commiserate now, and there’s no way I ever will – no matter how many years I work alongside them all.
And that’s okay. It’s not expected. Recognition and understanding isn’t why first responders do the work they do. Even if it’s often thankless, or it doesn’t have a happy ending – or when they don’t get to know the ending at all.
365 days of the year, first responders dedicate their lives in service of their communities and every person who lives in those communities. This day, National First Responders Day, is the one day of the year dedicated for us to do what we can to support them. And to be fair, it isn’t much, not by a lot – but when the gesture is all there is, that makes it a pretty important gesture.
Here are a few ways anyone can participate:
- Just say thank you. If you need some help, Thank You First Responders is an organization dedicated to doing exactly that.
- Advocate for their well-being. Especially as it relates to mental health or ensuring they receive proper resources to help us when we need it most. If nothing else, COVID-19 has shown us the dedication and sacrifice involved with the job, and it doesn’t stop when their shift ends. The Code Green Campaign and the First Responder Center for Excellence are two organizations that can support this goal.
- Get involved. There are many ways to volunteer in your local community, so don’t be afraid to reach out and see what might be helpful and directly benefit your friends, family, and neighbors.
- Take a moment to reflect. Even if it’s private, there is value in appreciation. For overnight shifts spent away from loved ones. For running into situations of danger when the rest of us run away. For being ready for us whenever we need them most. First responders do what many can’t.
To every individual actively serving our communities, to those retired from the job, to my coworkers I’m surrounded by here at SafeCities™, to our clients we serve every day, and to everyone who has ever served: We see you, we appreciate you, and we thank you.