This has been a pretty tough year for our country’s first responders. Tornadoes ripping through several Oklahoma schools, a massacre at a Connecticut elementary school, the Boston Marathon bombing, an explosion in a Texas fertilizer plant, and the Arizona Yarnell Hill wildfire first responders have certainly been in the headlines. Additionally¸ there were thousands of other instances where first responders responded, witnessed, and assisted in tragedies, heartbreaks, helplessness and disbelief that went unrecognized. All of these heroes had performed miracles, supported others, and had given a part of themselves, sometimes their lives, to save others.
The first proposal to establish a National First Responder Appreciation Day was made in 2006. This movement was recently renewed by Andrew Collier, the brother of a slain law enforcement officer. Sean Collier was killed searching for the suspects of The Boston Marathon Bombing in April, 2013. Andrew is currently working through the political process that would allow for national recognition and celebration of what first responders do for others every day. Whether an officer has stopped to assist a stranded motorist, talked a suicidal patient off of a bridge or rushed into a burning building with the fire department to search for trapped victims s(he) would be acknowledged on a special date every year. This Remembrance Day would be similar in nature as honoring all those who have served in the military on Veterans Day.
On September 27, 2006, 53-year-old Duane Roger Morrison walked into Platte Canyon High School in Bailey, CO, took six female students hostage and sexually assaulted them. He let four of the girls go before police stormed the classroom he was in. Using the remaining two girls as shields, Morrison shot at police, then shot and killed one of the girls, 16-year-old junior Emily Keyes, before taking his own life. Colorado was the first state to proclaim a First Responder Appreciation Day and it is celebrated on September 27. Oregon, Wisconsin, Illinois and Cayuga Falls, Ohio also celebrate First Responder Appreciation Days.
On April 18, 2013 Sean Collier was shot and killed in his vehicle. He was 26 years old. He had 5 siblings. One of them, his brother Andrew Collier has a dream and a goal; he is asking for your help in renewing the effort to develop, pass and initiate a National First Responders Day. He has been working on this proposal with the President, the Senate, and Congress. His dream includes all first responders, including you.
Andrew Collier’s hope is that after reading this article, you will go online and sign the petition for establishing a National First Responders Day. That is my hope too. It is also the hope of my editor Frank Borelli. In fact, I don’t think I have ever met a first responder who would argue against this needed recognition.
What is the Definition of a First Responder?
A person, such as a police officer, firefighter, or EMT, trained in urgent medical care and other emergency procedures that is prepared to move immediately to the scene of an accident or disaster to provide assistance. First responders include members from many agencies: police, firemen, paramedics/EMTs, dispatchers, disaster agencies and even volunteers. On my first day in a patrol car my partner, Ken, explained what first responders do quite simply: “Pam, they’re the people you see running in when everyone else is running out”. First responders are people who show up in the face of danger and natural disaster because they are committed to serving others.
It is a disaster, you’ve been notified, and you are en route, your mind is going through hundreds of scenarios as you scan channels to see if there are any other updates. When you get on scene your instincts kick in. Tunnel vision threatens you. Triage is of utmost importance. All your training comes flooding back to you. There are only three things you can rely on: your partner, your team, and yourself. You make a plan. You take action. That is what a first responder does.
First responders do not have the ability to change the course of an event; but their interventions can help make any situation better. These unique individuals are committed to protecting and serving communities to their very best ability; and to do so with skill and compassion. At times it truly can seem like a thankless job, and it can make you question your own sanity. But then there are times when something happens, someone notices, someone thanks you and you feel validated and appreciated enough to gear up for the next disaster. And you can’t imagine doing anything else.
The goal of a National First Responder Appreciation Day would be designed to further open communication lines between first responders and the public, while affording the public an opportunity to show their appreciation to these brave men and women. This continued dialogue would enable individuals to work together to ensure safer communities.
There are many obstacles to obtaining a proclamation for National First Responder Appreciation Day. Well, actually there is only one, but it is a multi-faceted doozy – politicians. U.S. law provides for the declaration of selected public observances by the President of the United States as designated by Congress, or by the discretion of the President (President Obama could make this proclamation all by himself). Generally the President will provide a statement about the purpose and significance of the observance, and call on the people of the United States to observe the day with appropriate ceremonies and activities. These events are designed to honor or commemorate a public issue or social cause, ethnic group, historic event, or special individual. Many of these observances designated by Congress are authorized by law under Title 36, U.S. Code, in which cases the President is under obligation to issue an annual proclamation.
The National First Responder Appreciation Day bill has passed in the Senate. And it is currently being promoted in the House by Congressman Michael Capuano from Massachusetts who wants “better recognition for the first responders who put themselves in harm's way”. Capuano drafted the legislation in response to the online petition for this appreciation day posted by Andrew Collier. This legislation, unfortunately, has been put on a back burner in Congress secondarily to the recent government shutdown. But fear not, first responders are not quitters.
Things First Responders can do to Make National First Responder Appreciation Day a Reality
The sacrifices that first responders have made should never be forgotten. 26,750 supporters have already signed the petition: “United States Congress: Designate a national holiday honoring America's first responders”. 73,250 more signatures are needed to reach the goal of 100,000. Massachusetts Congressional Representative Michael Capuano has agreed to sponsor the legislation, but requires the petition signatures to move forward. The harsh reality is that he needs at least a million to make the holiday a reality. There are over 900,000 sworn law enforcement officers now serving in the United States; this can be done.
Click here to sign this petition now. < http://www.change.org/firstresponders >
Go a little further; send this link to your friends, family members, and colleagues. Share it on whatever social media site you use: Twitter, Facebook, Linked-In, Etc. If you want to contact President Obama’s office about the proposed holiday here is the contact info: < http://www.whitehouse.gov/contact/submit-questions-and-comments> and/or call the comment line with a request at 202-456-1111
Additionally get the word out to the public. A recent study demonstrated that although 94% of the population believes first responders deserve more recognition and support for the work they do, only 32% have supported a first responder cause. It looks like people want to support first responder awareness but don’t know what to do. The next time someone asks you if there is anything they can do for you or the department ask them to go online and sign the petition. (Plus it is a whole lot safer than homemade food).
Come on, guys and gals, let’s roll. You deserve this, and then some.
On a personal note, as Thanksgiving approaches I want you to know that I am grateful for all first responders, especially those who work on holidays when tragedies are twice as hard and miracles are doubly special. Gobble Gobble.