"No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” (John 15:12 English Standard Version)
On May 4, 1963, President John F. Kennedy designated the week of May 15 as Police Week for every year thereafter. On May 9 of this year, Alaska Governor Mike Dunleavy proclaimed May 9 – 15, 2021 as Alaska Law Enforcement Week. Law Enforcement agencies across our nation pause to remember Officers who have died in the line of duty during this week. As of this writing, the Officer Down Memorial Page (ODMP.ORG) reports that 124 Law Enforcement Officers have died in the line of duty this year (2021).
The verse above, “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends,” is always read at funerals for first responders who die in the line of duty. This includes law enforcement officers, firefighters, emergency medical services technicians, paramedics, and dispatchers.
Often, a person’s encounter with first responders begins with a crisis. Someone needs help. It may be something that has happened or is happening right now. The crisis is followed by a phone call to 911. On the other end of the phone, a trained and experienced professional answers. They have likely never spoken before, but in this fateful moment they meet, and the 911 professional is a lifeline for a person, or persons, in crisis.
People do not call the emergency number with good news. No one calls 911 to report that their child has taken their first steps. First responders are not dispatched to celebrate. A loving couple does not call 911 for their anniversary or to share in the pride of watching their child graduate. 911 is called because something is very wrong and cannot be solved without outside emergency help.
After ascertaining the situation, the appropriate resource is dispatched. It may be firefighters, a law enforcement officer, and/or an ambulance crew.
Consider for a moment each of these first responders.
Like all first responders, fire fighters willingly enter life-threatening situations without knowing who they will encounter. They simply go. Firefighters are trained, equipped, and experienced. These professionals not only fight fires, but also respond to calls for medical assistance, train and maintain themselves and their equipment, and share live saving skills. Firefighters are the people who run in, while everyone else is running out. I always think of the fire fighters climbing the stairs with all their gear in the World Trade Center to rescue people. 344 FDNY firefighters died in the line of duty on 9/11/01.
Next are the law enforcement officers (LEOs). Like all first responders, they respond to calls for service for friends, neighbors, and strangers. They lay down their lives in the service of all, starting when they swear an oath and continuing on patrol. LEOs carry and train with firearms and willingly enter dangerous situations to save lives and stop threats. Sometimes LEOs get a bad rap for the actions of a very few bad apples. Are there bad officers? Certainly, just as there are bad teachers, bad coaches, bad politicians, bad priests, bad neighbors, etc. Every profession has its unprofessional. The officers most upset about bad officers are the good officers who give of themselves every day to make the world a better place.
Next are the emergency medical technicians (EMTs) and paramedics that make up the ambulance crew. These are the people who get down and dirty in bodily fluids, blood-borne pathogens, and interpersonal dynamics and conflicts. They too lay down their lives for friends and strangers.
What do all these first responders have in common? Each is willing to lay down his/her life for friends and strangers. Each has an incredibly stressful and stress filled job and carries the burden of encountering people on their worst day and sometimes on their last day. Each willingly enters where others flee. All make a tremendous difference. Remember also that first responders are people. First responders have families, are moms and dads, brothers and sisters, aunts and uncles, sons and daughters, friends and neighbors. First responders have the same hopes and dreams as anyone and serve to make the world a better place for everyone. Take time to pray for our first responders and for their families. Stop and say thank you the next time you see a first responder for laying down their lives for you – whether you be friend or stranger.
Rev. Stephen Reed is the Pastor, St. Paul Church on Farmers Loop next to Mushers Hall and the Chaplain for Police & Fire
Insight is sponsored by the Tanana Valley Christian Conference
Printed in the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner's Faith Section on May 14, 2021
Married 25 years, 2 kids, 1 cat and 1 dog. Ordained & Chaplain for 20 years. Ministry philosophy - we're all in this together and Jesus leads the way. Hobbies: working in the woodshed, teaching, and competitive shooting