CATES: Thank our first responders

It’s 9/11/23 as I am writing this. I think for most of us there are moments in history we will always remember vividly. My grandfather would talk about the end of World War I, my father-in-law would talk about the end of World War II, and my mom would talk about the Kennedy assassination. For me, it’s 9/11/01.

I remember that day so vividly. My mom called and said, “Turn on the news!” I said, “What channel?” And she replied, “Any channel!” I turned on the TV just in time to see the second plane crash into the World Trade Center towers. I remember sinking onto an ottoman in front of the TV in shock, and I don’t think I got up from that spot for the rest of the day. There is so much I remember from that day, but the one memory that stands out more than any other is the first responders running towards those towers.

That memory is so bittersweet. It is bitter because so many died on that awful day and sweet because of the bravery in the face of a horrific and dangerous event was so amazing to see. Their bravery is the stuff that inspires legends.

Ever since that awful day, on 9/11 each year I take a few moments to pray for and thank our first responders. Because it isn’t just those incredible folks in New York on 9/11 that ran to danger, it’s every licensed peace officer, fire fighter, and emergency medical service (EMS) provider across the U.S. that does the same thing every day before and since.

Maybe it is because as a nurse, especially as one who has worked much of her career in the Emergency Department, that I get to see this more than the average person, but our first responders just awe me. They see people at their absolute worst, and with rare exception still manage to try to make their corner of the world better. They are trained in one specialty but end up having to be not just peace officers, fire fighters, or EMS providers, but many other things as well. They are called to be everything from marriage counselors to addiction specialists, from legal experts to hazmat experts, and many other roles too numerous to mention. Basically, when something bad happens, first responders are expected to get there quickly, even when it puts their own lives in danger, and to be experts in getting others out of that bad situation, again, even when it puts their own lives in danger.

We have seen that behavior here in Odessa on a large scale when we had our active shooter event. That is another one of those days where I will always remember exactly where I was and what I was doing. That day, too, showed how first responders run towards the danger. Far too many people lost their lives that day and far too many others were injured. I have no doubt that it would have been worse without the bravery of our local first responders.

Unfortunately, active shooter events keep occurring across the U.S. at a frightening frequency. And our first responders still run to the danger. Now, however, our first responders are emphasizing prevention and mitigation strategies for the community when it comes to active shooter events. Recently our friends at Odessa Police Department let us know about a program called CRASE (Community Response to Active Shooter Events) in which they teach people how to protect themselves during an active shooter event. I can personally attest this is a great class. If you are interested in attending or hosting a CRASE class, please reach out to the Odessa Police Department at 432-335-3322 or email [email protected]

As I write this it is 9/11. I know you won’t be reading this on 9/11, but I am asking that you take some time after you read this to thank our first responders and to remember them in your thoughts and prayers every day. They have incredibly difficult jobs and need our support beyond 9/11.