Beyond the Call of Duty in the Face of Tragedy

Large-scale disasters have a profound effect on society and the world and, due to their tragically massive scale, touch the lives of many, many individuals. The people that feel the most immediate repercussion though are the proverbial boots on the ground, the emergency responders. These brave people run straight into the face of danger and do everything possible to curtail the loss of human life. These are just a handful of the most harrowing stories of some of the most admirable individuals who risked life and limb to save others, going much further than duty ever demanded.

See Also: How to Plan for Workplace Emergencies

The Boston Marathon

In a callous and heartless attack, two brothers, Dzhokhar and Tamerlan Tsarnaev, set off two pressure cooker bombs close to the finish line killing three people and injuring an estimated 264 more. The attack’s motives were based on the West’s “war on Muslims”.

One of the first responders was actually a civilian called Carlos Arredondo, who was a spectator at the marathon supporting members of the National Guard running in honor of his two sons, one of whom died in combat while the other committed suicide as a result of losing his brother. Unfortunately, fate had Arredondo witness one more tragedy, but instead of breaking him, it made him a hero. Without any other motivation than helping the injured, he ran to the aid of the bombing’s victims.

One of the victims was a gravely injured Jeff Bauman who was missing both his legs and bleeding profusely. Arredondo ran into the destruction and carnage, picked Jeff up and put him in a wheelchair, tying a tourniquet around his injured legs. He managed to get Jeff to emergency medical workers, inevitably saving his life.

Coincidentally, Mr. Bauman went on to play the most significant role in the bombers’ apprehension by providing a description of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev to the FBI, whom he had bumped into just moments before the bomb went off.

The Day the World Watched

I find it bizarre that almost every single American can remember exactly where they were and what they were doing on September 11, 2001. I was in the army, walking into the mess hall where a few buddies were watching TV, a scene of two smoking buildings and a news banner running underneath it. I really didn’t take it into consideration; I honestly thought it was a fake news report in a movie. Until one of my friends said: “This is happening now.”

The men and women involved in the rescue mission in the aftermath of 9/11 will undoubtedly never forget their experience. Although the authorities immediately rushed to Ground Zero in a disaster that claimed 2,977 lives and brought down two 110-storey buildings, the scale and magnitude of the attack demanded much more than the city or government could offer. But where the authorities’ manpower strained, volunteers ran to help.

The first responders and emergency workers that helped during the rescue and cleanup have another horrifying reality to deal with, though: their possible, impending death. When the towers collapsed, they released plumes of toxic fumes filled with particles of asbestos, aerosolized concrete, and other harmful toxins. These brave men and women breathed in this deadly mix and are still suffering from the effects of exposure more than a decade later.

Although the psychological effects of a disaster linger, the scale of 9/11 also had physical ramifications that took months to scrap away. Ground Zero was a tragically surreal mess of debris and human remains of almost 3,000 people who died during the attack. After the towers collapsed, only 23 people survived. Many of the deceased were people who rushed to the site to save people in the second tower.

The July 7th London Bombings

I have read many accounts of first responders from the July 7th attacks, and one thing that seems universal, and the most disquieting, is that most people said that there was an eerie silence immediately after the explosion, until debris started falling from the exploded bus.

People from the British Association of Medicine sprinted from their headquarters with whatever medical equipment they could muster to a packed double decker bus due to the subway bombings earlier. It was described as if it were a scene out of a war movie, with destruction and evidence of human life lost scattered through the streets.

When a total of three bombs went off and most people were running in the opposite direction, police officers, firefighters, paramedics and people who just wanted to help ran towards the flames. Although a tragedy of global scale, with 52 unarmed civilians senselessly losing their lives, many more were saved because of the bravery of the people who chose to run towards danger than away from it.

The Ones That Save

In the September 11th attacks, 71 police officers and 243 firefighters lost their lives trying to save others, and over 1,444 rescue workers have died since due to being exposed to the toxins in the air around Ground Zero. Even though every single one of these attacks was a horrifying, tragic event, it shows that, in the face of humanity’s worst members, most people will show their best face. People from all walks of life helped; they ran to the assistance of the injured and helped the survivors cope with their experience and loss.

I know it’s overly idealistic, but I hope at some point in humanity’s violent history, we will reach a point where we won’t need to deal with tragedies such as these. I hope that people will not look at each other as targets or threats, but as people, and will try to find the real reasons behind war, poverty, famine, and discontent. That’s maybe asking a lot, but at the same time one thing that seems to prevail from these stories is hope, and I’m going to keep hoping for a future just like that.

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See Also: The Most Dangerous Police Forces to Work for Around the World

If you can think of any other first responders and their stories, please let me know in the comments section below – the deserved to be known.