When I was looking up the dates of National Police Week (May 10-16), I happened to notice that May 17-23, 2020, is National Emergency Services (EMS) Week. I do not think that this week is one that I have ever known about, much less celebrated. But in 1974, President Ford started EMS Week to do that very thing – to celebrate the country’s EMS workers and to recognize the crucial work that they do in our communities.

My experience with EMS professionals, luckily, has been pretty limited. Back many years ago, when I taught an exercise class at the Barium Springs YMCA, I was required to take a CPR class. Several of us took the class at the Y from an EMS worker who had real-life examples of situations and how to respond. I am not sure that I remember what I learned about CPR, but I do remember that I loved listening to the stories that our instructor shared. I am sure that she only told us the funny and interesting ones, not the scary or sad ones. But I remember thinking then, this lady is special. This lady provides life-saving services for our community.

And I also have had experience with EMS professionals in court, generally during murder trials. What I find amazing about EMS workers involved in our cases is that they are the first ones to go into a dangerous situation to try to save a life. They often arrive at the same time as — or even before — law enforcement officers arrive. When they get there, the scene is chaotic, confusing and sometimes, I imagine, scary. But they go in, and they do their jobs, regardless of the risk.

And then how do we in the District Attorney’s Office thank them? We have them testify in court (that was sarcasm). I am pretty sure that testifying in court is one of their least favorite parts of the job, but each EMS professional that I have ever had testify in a trial has been an excellent witness – knowledgeable, professional, respectful.

People talk a lot these days about those on the “front line,” and that definition means something different during this pandemic. EMS workers are certainly on that front line, facing life-or-death situations daily. And just because we are dealing with the coronavirus crisis, that does not mean that the other 911 calls have stopped. EMS workers continue to answer those calls every day and make quick decisions, based on years of training and experience, that save lives.

So thank you, EMS professionals, during this week and every week. Thank you for continuing to answer those calls, to make those decisions, to save lives. We are lucky to have you on our front line.

Sarah Kirkman is the District Attorney for Alexander and Iredell counties.

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