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Thursday, June 10, 2010

Planting Seeds

by Steven P. Velasquez, NREMTP
June 10, 2010

A four year-old boy in the 1970’s visits the Asbury Park boardwalk with his parents. A day of rides, games and salt-water taffy turns sour when the boy gets a splinter in his foot and is in terrible pain. The parents, not knowing where to go, take the crying tyke to a local firehouse and seek the help of the brave. Doing the best they can with what they have, which is what these people do daily, the firefighters remove the splinter, clean the wound and dry the boy’s tears. To speed the process, they let the little boy wear their turnout gear and helmet as he lives out a childhood fantasy and proudly rings the polished bell mounted upon the front bumper.

Ten years later, on a cool October’s afternoon, the growing boy is on the phone with a friend. The cord (wired device used to connect the receiver to the telephone back then) wraps from the hallway to the living room where the boy is perched upon a chair when his best friend in the whole world, his grandmother, develops agonizing chest pain. The boy’s aunt (sister of the grandmother) runs to him and frantically interrupts his phone call – much to his frustration – as she yells at him in Spanish “something is wrong with your grandmother, come quickly!” As the boy rounds the hallway and looks toward the kitchen, his best friend, the woman who raised him, is gasping for air and writhing in pain.

He calls the local police department (no 911 back then) and asks that they dispatch an ambulance to the address for a heart attack. Within moments, several people clad in white jumpsuits arrive; provide care and transportation of the boy’s ailing grandmother to an area hospital. He notices that one of the crew members is someone he knows from school. He’s a member of the ambulance corps’ youth squad and even if he didn’t know everything, he knew more than the boy did. And on that day, he was part of the solution which in the boy’s eyes – made him a hero.

Four years later, that boy became a man, joined the fire department and later became an EMT and a Paramedic. Twenty plus years later, he sits at his laptop reflecting on the seeds that may have been planted by these seemingly insignificant moments in his past. Do the random gestures we perform daily plant seeds for generations to come? I pray they do and look forward to reading others similar experiences.

For now though, I thank the people who planted this man’s seeds, the Asbury Park Fire Department and Ken Arnold, of the Rutherford Volunteer First Aid Squad, who today continues to serve people in a uniform of a different color, but of no less importance. I found Ken on FaceBook June 9th 2010, decades after not seeing him. No longer a youth squad member, Kenny now wears the distinguished uniform of the U.S. Navy. Though I found him on Facebook which continues to shrink the size of the Earth, Kenny is on the other side of it (the Earth), serving in Afghanistan. Anonymously and courageously he protects my family still and in this man’s eyes, that makes him – still a hero