I’m sharing an email I sent to my dad, who spent over 20 years as a volunteer first responder and firefighter. I grew up in a town of about 500 people, and Dad was one of a number of men and women who were willing to risk their personal safety to serve and protect the community.
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I’ve been thinking about you a lot for the last few days. Especially after the West, TX, fertilizer plant explosion.
I stopped in West when I was driving up to Dallas from Austin for a conference back in November. They’ve got a well known convenience store called the Czech Stop, which as been serving kolaches 7 days a week, 24 hours a day, for over 20 years.
The town is small and reminded me of Clinton. Ortonville. Morris. Close-knit, hardworking community where individuals help each other because everyone is related or might as well be. Tough people who come together through trials and emerge stronger than the powerful devastations.
And I’ve been thinking a lot about emergency workers. In West, volunteer fire fighters responded when the plant started on fire. Several people killed in the blast were emergency personnel who signed up to protect their children and friends and neighbors.
I remember riding with you, Dad, when you were fire chief and took the trucks out to run safety checks make sure the equipment would be ready in a time of need. You let me turn on the sirens.
I remember hearing your pager’s crackled voice every night at 6 pm. Sometimes I got to dial 911 to report that the test came through.
I remember several times when your pager would squeal and the cadence of your already-quick pace (a distinct heel-to-toe cowboy boot rhythm) would speed to a run as you hopped into the old Dodge, flipped on the headlights, flashed the hazards, and rushed to the fire hall.
I remember hearing stories about how you were a first responder, which inspired my own desire to become a volunteer EMT and first responder. I remember coming home from emergency calls and not providing a lot of details–but knowing through our dialogue and the way you looked at me that you understood.
So I’ve been reflecting on West, TX. On the events from Massachusetts that have been playing in the background all day. On the wisdom of Mr. Rogers who told kids to “look for the helpers” when they are afraid.
I’m proud to be your daughter, Dad. And along with my prayers for peace and protection, I’m giving thanks for you and all the helpers.
I love you,