First Responders: Editorial: Thank you, first responders

In late 2012, the Gazette staff decided to create this annual special section of stories about local first responders—the police officers, firefighters and EMTs who keep us safe, yet often work unnoticed and un-thanked.

Since then, the months just before the special section’s annual publication have been marked by tragic disasters that put gratitude for first responders at the front of every Bostonian’s mind.

Last year, we debuted the section just weeks after the Boston Marathon bombings. In the wake of that attack, Boston Police officers hunted gunmen who appeared willing and eager to shoot them and blow them up. EMTs from the City’s Emergency Medical Services saved scores of lives of people bleeding on the street. Boston Fire Department firefighters combed through blown-out storefronts and put out a fire at the JFK Library amid what was feared to be another bomb attack. LMA hospital emergency teams saved scores of lives.

Many of those first responders are serving and protecting the neighborhood at this very moment.

This year, First Responders follows the horrific Back Bay house fire that killed two Boston firefighters, while their comrades managed to contain the wind-driven inferno to a single building.

In the outstanding official response to these terrible, extraordinary events, we see a truth about daily life as well. It is the kind of service we see every day, on a much smaller scale and alert level, in Mission Hill and the LMA. Like most of Boston, this is place where most people can walk down the street with a feeling of security; where death by house fire is virtually unheard of; where an ill or injured person can expect high-quality medical care within minutes, followed by a quick whisking away to one of the world’s great hospitals.

First responders are granted an enormous amount of power over the residents of Boston, and one of the Gazette’s responsibilities is to hold them accountable for their mistakes and bad actors. Another responsibility is to partner with these agencies from time to time to make the public aware of important information to keep us all safer.

A third responsibility is much harder to fulfill. That is reminding everyone that, behind the badges and lights and gear, our first responders are fellow human beings doing often ugly jobs under incredible pressures and with a high rate of success. It is literally impossible to write the stories about the people who didn’t get shot, the houses that didn’t catch fire, the patients who didn’t die, because of their work.

What we can do is take you behind the scenes and introduce you to some local first responders, and join you in saying thanks.

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