BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) — Adventist Health and KGET want to honor those who make Kern County a better place to live and who better to do that than first responders? When people call 911 they expect a composed voice on the other end of the line and a response from professionals who know how to handle emergencies.
That’s a lot of ask, and yet many of us have come to take it all for granted. That’s why Thursday’s special observance — across the nation and right here in Bakersfield — felt overdue to many.
The event at Historic Union Cemetery was the inaugural First Responders Day, About 100 people attended, but if just a fraction of the tens of thousands of Kern County residents who call upon first responders every year had attended the ceremony, the cemetery would have been overrun.
These days it seems like there’s a national day of recognition for every profession, every pursuit, every anniversary. And yet somehow we’re just getting around to honoring people who save lives in our community every single day — first responders.
The trauma, the tragedy, the lack of closure can really weigh on first responders. For every gratifying, live-saving call, there’s a heartbreaker, said Bakersfield Fire Chief Anthony Galagaza.
“I’ve always said that every firefighter has a cup, and over time that cup gets more full and more full, and sometimes those cups can overflo,” he said. “And that comes, but there’s also the other side — the gratification of being able to and actually be there at that time where they needed you most and being able to make a bad situation better.”
There are 4.6 million first responders in this country, according to the Department of Homeland Security — firefighters, police, emergency medical technicians including paramedics, and 911 operators. And dozens die in the line of duty every year: According to the CDC, on average 97 firefighters and 155 police officers.
It’s been an especially tough 18 months for them, too with the Covid-19 pandemic complicating things.
With ongoing increases in population, the toxicity of street drugs and distrust of authority, it might get worse before it gets better. All the more reason to recognize their sacrifices.