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Chester County Press

Editorial: Our faces of reassurance

12/09/2020 10:37AM ● By Richard Gaw

In order to craft our most appropriate response to the stoking fires of a local news issue, we have just created a fictional man.

Any work to round the corners of who he is and what he looks like is entirely unimportant, but what is important to know is that he lives in the western portion of Kennett Township near the Kennett Borough, to be exact -- and every night before he falls asleep, he leans over and kisses his wife of many years. For the past several decades, he has acknowledged her place in his life and in the life of the family they have raised. The children have all grown, attended college and moved away from home, and for what seems like the first time since they were first married, the man has been given the time and the freedom to confine the light of his love to his bride.

He knows the truth that tells him nearly every day that the only noticeable scar in the outline of his wife’s strong and healthy life is that she was born with a weak heart. He treats the condition as one would handle a porcelain statue, and he has lost count of how many times the flashing red lights of EMS and ambulance units from the Longwood and Kennett fire companies pulled into his driveway.

Yet, instead of sending him into panic, the lights made him feel assured that everything would be all right. It has always been that way, with every emergency: the quiet efficiency and the calm voices, all delivered by EMTs from both companies who are at the very top of their professions.

Then came this morning, Dec. 9.

The fictional man reads the front page of this week’s Chester County Press to find that the municipality he has lived in since his children were small is considering a proposal that if passed, would streamline its EMS and ambulance service to township residents to a single-service provider. If passed, the consolidation would rely exclusively on the Longwood Fire Company’s EMS and ambulance units, thus wiping away a two-unit dispatch system that had blanketed most of the township with unmatched service for several years.

It would eliminate thousands of hours of EMS and ambulance service that otherwise would be available to him and his township neighbors, and has been estimated to result in an increase in the number of missed calls for both Basic Life Support (BLS) and Advanced Life Support (ALS).

It would likely lead to the layoffs of several part-time and full-time EMTs at the Kennett Fire Company, and weaken the six-member Regional Fire and EMS Commission due to Kennett Borough’s consideration to leave in protest of the township’s proposal.

And all of this in the middle of a pandemic that has shown no signs of slowing down, the fictional man thinks. Where exactly is the benefit, and for whom? How do you reconcile “finding a more efficient method of doing things” with the price of a human life?

Suddenly, all of those late night evenings and early weekend mornings come back to the fictional man as slowed-down single frames from a silent film: the frantic phone calls, the helplessness of seeing his wife in pain, the precious value of seconds ticking by, and the feeling of pure graciousness and relief when the flashing lights first appeared in his driveway.

The people in those vehicles – the men and women of the Longwood and Kennett Fire companies – have been our county’s quietest heroes, he thinks. It would be a tragedy if we should lose some of them.

It is then, when all of the faces in the film slowly fade away, that it occurs to the fictional man: Not once in all of those emergency calls did he ever stop to read the fire company’s name on the side of the vehicles, or the words on their lapels when they entered his home. All he remembers are the faces of reassurance, telling him that everything will be all right.