Wednesday, January 26, 2011

A love note to those who rush in when the rest of us rush for cover.

It’s been a rough 48 Hours for St. Petersburg, Florida. On Monday, we had a violent monster kill two St. Petersburg police officers and wound a federal marshal. One of the police officers has three young children. As Mayor Bill Foster said, it was a dark day for St. Petersburg.

Tuesday evening, a strong line of tornadic storms hit Florida, with one unconfirmed tornado hitting here in St. Petersburg, resulting in a gas station awning and pillars getting up-ended along with a car, and the car ended up crushed and on its side with the driver trapped inside. She was extracted by rescue personnel and heavy equipment and is now recovering in the hospital. I passed by the scene on the way to work this morning and, trust me, the photos I’ve seen on the news do not do justice to how horribly the real thing brings to light the power of nature, specifically wind. Also on my way to work, I saw several huge trees down, etc. It was like a hurricane had hit the city. It reminded me of how powerless and insignificant we are when, as my mom puts it, “nature flicks her tail”.

Now, these two events were very different in nature: one was a human tragedy and one was a natural event. Yet something jumps out at me, in trying to wrap my head around the last 48 hours here in my beautiful, beloved city of St. Petersburg, Florida. Something that the two events each led me to: Thank God for first responders.

Thank God for police, for fire and rescue, for paramedics, for everyone who rushes in when the rest of us rush for cover. These folks risk their lives for us and I say TAX ME MORE, if necessary, to ensure that they are paid enough, trained enough, armored enough, equipped enough, have enough health insurance, and know that they are valued.  I just want to say THANK YOU to everyone who puts themselves on the line for us every day, making heroism seem routine.

I particularly want to give a deep, heartfelt thank you to the St. Petersburg Police Department, which I had the privilege of partnering with as a citizen volunteer Wrice process anti-drug marcher for many years. We marchers always felt safe, no matter what dangerous situation we faced, because the St. Petersburg police were right there with us. We were threatened, taunted, had lights shone in our eyes, even had weapons brandished at us by drug dealers, yet we always kept our focus, stood our ground, and continued chanting. Was this because of extraordinary bravery on our part? Speaking for myself, I can say no, I’m a huge chicken. So why did I feel safe in those inherently unsafe situations? Again, we felt safe because we had the St. Petersburg police right there with us. They would (and did) protect us, no matter what, and we always knew that. For all those times they were with us, surrounding us, supporting us and protecting us, I hope they know that today, the heart of every St. Petersburg Wrice process anti-drug marcher (we haven’t marched in a few years, but once a Wrice marcher, always a Wrice marcher), as well as the heart of every citizen of St. Petersburg, is with them and their families, surrounding them with appreciation and love.

In the words of one of our Turn Around St. Petersburg, Wrice march chants:  "Support your men and women in green, they're the best we've ever seen!"

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