SURRATT: First responders deserve our respect, gratitude

Published 4:00 am Friday, September 17, 2021

“God and the doctor we alike adore

 When on the brink of danger not before;

The danger past, both are alike requited;

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God is forgotten and the doctor slighted!”

—Ella Wheeler Wilcox

I first read that poem when I was a teenager sitting in a doctor’s waiting room.

In the 55 years since I read it, it has stayed with me somewhere in the back of my mind and I periodically would silently try to put the words in sequence so I could repeat it at some later time in an attempt to appear educated in the knowledge of trivia.

But last week — Saturday, by the way — I began thinking about it during an assignment.

I was covering the 9/11 parade and walk to honor the 343 New York firefighters who lost their lives while trying to save others in the twin towers. And as the paid and volunteer firefighters in their turnout gear walked along Washington Street I began to think of “God and the Doctor.”

Firefighters, EMTs and paramedics, police officers — in fact, all first responders — are the ones called whenever danger threatens our homes, families or our lives. We call on them to come to our aid probably never considering the dangers they face answering our calls, whether we have a sprained ankle, a case of vandalism or a house fully engulfed in flames.

And like the doctor, they’re adored when they respond. And after the danger, they’re basically forgotten.

We see them on the streets, pass by the stations where the pumpers, ladder trucks, ambulances and police cars parked out in front, ready to respond at a moment’s notice.

We expect our first responders to be at the ready to protect us and we expect to see them at their stations or on the road. In short, we take them for granted. We forget about the training they’re required to have to do their jobs, regardless if they are paid or a volunteer. And, as 9/11 pointed out, the dangers they face anytime they respond to a call for help.

As a community, we need to remember those dangers they face and the risks they take to protect and serve their community. And we need to do a better job of recognizing their efforts and their skill.

These first responders do this work because they want to do it. They’re not looking for publicity or to gratify their egos, but a thank-you would probably be appreciated.

These are our neighbors, folks. They’ve decided to take up a profession or a job that few want to do and it’s a tough one; they deserve our respect and thanks and maybe we ought to have a better idea of what they do.

So when you see a first responder, whether on the street or working at a station, give them a wave. If you see one while walking on the street, tell them the same thing you would tell a military veteran, “Thank you for your service.”

These are the people who keep safe at home and they deserve more recognition.

About John Surratt

John Surratt is a graduate of Louisiana State University with a degree in general studies. He has worked as an editor, reporter and photographer for newspapers in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post staff since 2011 and covers city government. He and his wife attend St. Paul Catholic Church and he is a member of the Port City Kiwanis Club.

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