We've had a lot of talk of heroism in the weeks since the tragic shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School. Hero neighbors. Hero teachers. And now a Christmas gift given to the police officers who responded to the tragic shooting in Newtown, Connecticut reminds us to stop this week and thank the first responders, the quiet heroes who ran into that school building to save lives.
Not one single police officer in Newtown had to work on Christmas Day this year. Not one. Of course, the town wasn't left without public safety.
Cops from nearby communities reportedly stepped in to cover the shifts of everyone on the Newtown force, allowing them to spend the holiday with their families. Perhaps even more moving is the news that these Good Samaritans won't even be taking advantage of the holiday pay that makes working on Christmas more attractive: they'll be donating it to the various charities that have sprung up to help the Sandy Hook victims.
It isn't the first time we've heard of heroism among the emergency response community in relation to Sandy Hook. Last week there were photos spreading around Facebook of firefighters who traveled from far and wide to line the streets of Newtown as little Daniel Barden's parents bid him farewell. The 7-year-old killed in the shooting had dreamt of growing up to join the fire service.
Living in a small town, to me this is what emergency responders are. They are heroes, albeit often quiet about their methods, who do for others not necessarily for a paycheck (in fact I live in a community where every single firefighter is a volunteer and most on the ambulance squad are as well), but because they have the "I want to help" gene.
Think about it: would you have run into that school knowing an armed maniac was inside? OK, what if you didn't have children in there? These cops in Newtown did. It was their jobs, yes, but there was something in them that called them to that particular line of work. It takes a special kind of someone to join the military, become a cop, become a firefighter, drive an ambulance ...
We will close out this year with our hearts heavy because of what happened in Newtown, but that doesn't mean we shouldn't celebrate that something special we have in our midst. We need to think about these first responders, about people like the cops in Newtown who have worked non-stop since the shooting and still have to handle their own grieving. The gift they were given on Christmas Day is only the beginning of the support they too need for the roles they've played in this tragedy.
Have you given any thought to the first responders to this tragedy? Do you typically remember them in the wake of something like this?
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