April is a cruel month. The bombing at the Boston Marathon and the devastating explosion last night in west Texas are just the most recent additions to a long list of grim disasters that have occurred in the month of April.
I know this because of my daughter, who tracked major disasters from 1993 on while studying emergency management and working on her master's degree. She found that April has unusually high number of major incidents. (October is a close second.) Those incidents include the 1993 raid on the Branch Davidian compound in Waco, Texas; the 1995 bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City; the 1999 mass shooting at Columbine High Shool in Littleton, Colo.; and the 2007 shootings on campus at Virginia Tech.
Two other April disasters had significant impact on the environment and the economy. In 2010, the Eyjafjallajokull volcano in Iceland erupted and created some of the worst chaos in air travel. Six days later, the Deepwater Horizon oil spill occurred off the coast of Louisiana.
But there are positives to be found in every story, once you get past the sadness. When I spoke with Boston Fire Department’s District Fire Chief Paul Burke earlier this week, he told me that many off-duty nurses and firefighters who were standing near the marathon's finish line jumped to action and aided the victims of the bomb blasts. Burke credits their response with saving numerous lives. And it struck me that nurses, firefighters and EMS personnel never are really off-duty.
Even though my brothers were firefighters and had basic EMT training, I always knew I could call one of them for preliminary medical advice before I called the doctor or went to the emergency room. Simple reassurance of cold or hot for a sprain coming from a firefighter was what I needed to hear. Sometimes I would call one of the fire stations and talk to a paramedic. I knew I could trust their advice.
As a young mom, having a good friend who was a registered nurse in a family practice also wasa great resource. When our daughter became an R.N., I was impressed to see how family and friends would call her for guidance or insight to their medical questions. Nurses have an innate ability to interpret medical lingo into simple terminology and in a comforting manner.
These things ran through my mind after I talked to Burke. The trust we have in firefighters and nurses is natural. They dedicate their lives to helping others and willing share their knowledge and skills when needed.
While the cards seem stacked against the month of April, major disasters know no schedule or calendar and can happen any time. There will always be evil people in the world and horrific incidents will continue to happen. There will be martyrs, but there will be good Samaritans to step up and make life better. Thank God for firefighters and nurses — on or off-duty.