By Sen. Bill Diamond
We are grateful for our first responders all year round, but today marks a special occasion to celebrate and thank them. Today – Sept. 11, 2020 – marks the debut of First Responders Day in Maine after the Legislature passed a bill this February which was signed into law by Gov. Janet Mills. Our first responders show bravery and selflessness every time they go in for a shift or show up for an emergency, and there is no greater example of this than the heroism our first responders showed on Sept. 11, 2001. First Responders Day commemorates and honors the significant contributions of those who put their lives in danger to keep the people of this state safe, including police officers, firefighters, emergency medical personnel, game wardens, forest rangers and marine patrol officers. By officially commemorating the sacrifice and service of first responders, we show them that we appreciate their hard work and sacrifice.
These days our society is facing a different kind of crisis from the one we faced on Sept. 11, 2001, and our first responders are once again carrying a heavy load for all of us. Even in the best of times, emergency medical services (EMS) personnel, firefighters and police officers struggle with increased rates lof mental health issues, in addition to the physical danger they put themselves in every time they respond to an emergency. But during this uncertain time, which is stressful for all of us, our shouldering even more than usual.
In addition to their typical duties, first responders are confronted with the possibility that the call they are responding to could expose them to COVID-19, putting themselves and their families at risk. Some first responders elect to stay away from their families, to decrease the chances that they infect their loved ones. For many first responders, this pandemic has also increased their workload. Some Maine EMS services, for example, are opting to provide COVID-19 swabbing services, which is a service that falls outside their typical duties but is much needed. The risk for mental, emotional and physical fatigue for our first responders is great.
This pandemic has also expanded our understanding of the term “first responder” as health care workers fight the virus on the frontlines and experience the trauma that comes from long shifts, a lack of personal protective equipment, and in some cases witnessing suffering and death above and beyond what they usually face. To help, Maine Responds, the state’s emergency health volunteer system, launched the FrontLine WarmLine in April, a helpline for clinicians and first responders to get additional support in coping with the added stress brought on by these uncertain times.
Commemorating Sept. 11 as First Responders Day in Maine is an important signal of our appreciation for the service our first responders provide. I urge you to take time today to reflect on their service and to thank a first responder in your life. In different times, I can imagine how we would all be observing this day; I look forward to commemorating together next year. A big thank you to our fire and rescue teams and to the police who work so hard and sacrifice so much for us every day; your sacrifice does not go unnoticed.
I want to hear from you. You can send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org or call my office at 207-287-1515.<