As we remember the lives lost fifteen years ago on September 11th, 2001, we should all take a moment to recognize the brave men and women who make up the rare group of individuals known as first responders. As human beings, our natural reaction to danger is to run away. It is a true act of heroism that some people dedicate their lives to being the ones who have to run toward the danger, with a level head and a great deal of courage, as the yearn to save the lives of those in need. So while we often let the hustle and bustle of our busy lives keep us from noticing things like this, it is important to take some time this month and reflect with thanksgiving on the everyday tasks our first responders spend their days completing.

The Tragedy of it…

Each day, first responders put on their uniforms and punch into a job that often finds them facing tragic, gruesome, and sometimes heart wrenching circumstances. They are called to put people back together, pick up the bodies of the dead, even sacrifice their own lives to save a complete stranger. Many of their families wait at home anxiously hoping to see them walk through the door at the end of their shift. The mental strain that first responders and their families face on a daily basis can cause lifelong effects on marriages, relationships with their children, and even their own mental health. Fathers are forced to treat children clinging to life who have a striking resemblance to their own child. Wives are forced to pick up pieces of someone else’s husband knowing he will never make it home. And time and time again, first responders come back to work from an injury, ready to jump right back into the same routine that nearly took their life.

So as you tuck your child into bed this month, while you sit comfortably on your couch with your spouse at the end of the work day, while you spend your day laughing and enjoying life, take a moment to stop and acknowledge those out there desperately fighting to save someone else’s life. The paramedic who administers CPR to the teenager who loses their life. The firefighter who chooses to save the woman on the third floor and doesn’t make it home to his or her own family. The police officer who is killed in the line of duty during a simple traffic stop. The Office of Emergency Management director who is stuck in the office for days straight during the storm not knowing if his or her own family is safe. While their job isn’t easy, while it takes years off their own life, while it wakes them in the night with dreams of the gruesome accident they witnessed years before, they still get up and go out every day knowing they could never come home. And they have no hesitation about it. For those risking their lives to save yours, a simple, sincere, and heartfelt thank you goes a long way.