Scroll down your Facebook feed or browse your Twitter account and you don’t have to go far to see recognition, tributes and stories about the bravery of first responders. But how often do you hear about the heart of a first responder?
It was late summer when two GMR team members from Hartford, Connecticut volunteered to deploy to south Florida as part of a Health and Human Services mission to test Miami/Ft. Lauderdale residents for COVID-19. They would be part of a task force who set up five testing sites and traveled to homes to test individuals not able to get to a testing site.
Heather Lallo and Mike Rosa were in Miami testing residents when they encountered an older gentleman spending the afternoon in his car. “It was 105 degrees,” exclaimed Lallo. “He said he was sitting in his car with the doors open because he didn’t have any air conditioning in his house. He was suffering from diabetes and other serious medical issues in addition to being exposed to the extreme heat.”
As Lallo and Rosa completed their morning route, they returned to the base and told a small group of nurses, police officers and Broward County deputies about the man they had met. In a matter of minutes, there was more than a thousand dollars on the table in front of them. Everyone agreed he should have an air conditioner given his age and health. This is the heart of a first responder: ready to act to help those in need at a moment’s notice.
Rosa and Lallo purchased air conditioners for each of the rooms in the man’s trailer and then put the remaining money on a gift card for him. They returned to his residence to install the units, knowing they had to be back at the team base shortly. Unexpectedly, others from the base started showing up—a deputy, a couple of nurses and others. Almost everyone from the base decided to come over and help clean up the man’s trailer and get him back on a good track.
“We were just trying to spread a little Connecticut love to Florida, and it turned into a community effort where everyone pulled together out of the kindness of their hearts.” Lallo explained further. “I’ve been a teacher for 16 years. I do things naturally. It’s the teacher in me. My partner and I have been working for AMR for 16 years and we both have a passion to help people. We weren’t looking for recognition and really didn’t want people to know about it. We don’t even know the gentleman’s name. But I do believe that one act of kindness might have saved that man’s life.”
Being a first responder is not an easy job. You see things you can never unsee. You are asked to remain calm and levelheaded while everyone around you is in crisis mode or shock. The weight of life or death can hang on every call that day. This is the heart of a first responder.