What Matters Most

Published: February 15, 2022

By Jim Lichtman
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With an looming invasion in Ukraine, mandate protests, near-total dysfunction in Washington, it’s nice to know that there are volunteers who are willing to be there when needed. This story is likely one of thousands repeated every day that demonstrate the power of citizenship . . . even in tough times. As reported by Steve Hartman for CBS News.

“When people call for an ambulance in Sackets Harbor, New York,” Hartman begins, “and the crew shows up at their door — almost everyone has the same reaction.

“‘A lot of people just come up and ask you, “Wait, how old are you?” Cooper Antonson said.

“‘You’re the EMT?!’ Grayden Brunet said of how people have reacted.

“‘We just explain to them — we are the ambulance,” Niklas Brazie said.

“These baby-faced first responders,” Hartman says, “took over the town’s Emergency Medical Services not long after COVID-19 hit, when all the older EMS volunteers either couldn’t — or wouldn’t — do the job anymore.

“That exodus is part of a national trend. In rural America, 35 percent of ambulance services are all-volunteer. And 69 percent of those departments say they’re struggling to find help.

“Fortunately, in Sackets Harbor, desperation led to inspiration. In New York State you can become an EMT at 17, and you can start assisting when you’re even younger. When a group of local high schoolers heard that, they decided to step up, took the required training, and resuscitated the department.

“‘We went from not even having our licenses to saving people’s lives,’ Dalton Hardison said.

“‘Being able to help those people – I really like that,’ Reese Mono said.

Hartman says, “by all accounts they are doing that. Whether you’ve fallen off a ladder, have severe chest pains, or can barely breathe, this group of teens and young adults save the day — almost every day.

“They are sacrificing much of their free time and surrendering some of their innocence, and they say the hardest part is telling people their loved one is gone.

“‘It’s like time freezes and everything stops, and that’s one of the hardest things to do, for sure,’ Brunet said. ‘Yea, it’s hard. Who else is there to do it if we don’t? Someone needs to. Someone needs to step up and do it.”

Acts of citizenship happen every day and, despite the chaos in the country and the world, that’s what matters most.


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