First Responder Appreciation Week

Following the deaths of two law enforcement officials last year – Charles Kondek of Tarpon Springs, and Christopher Smith of Leon County, who were both killed in the line of duty – Gov. Rick Scott declared Jan. 5 through 9 First Responder Appreciation Week.

It almost seems silly to dedicate a week to appreciate our first responders. It should just be a given. On the other hand, people should be recognized for their work and dedication. And considering that they put their lives on line for us every day, a week hardly seems adequate.

Look at Gulf Breeze, for example. On Monday afternoon, an officer pulled over a woman who was driving erratically. She wasn’t listening to the officer, and when he put his arm in her window to remove her keys, she took off, dragging him across the road. The officer needed emergency surgery for a compound fracture in his arm.

First responders leave their house each day never knowing what to expect and they need to be prepared for anything and everything.

Since 2007, the Holley-Navarre Fire District has responded to more than 2,000 calls each year. Now not every call is a full-blown fire, but when a home is engulfed in flames, they don’t think twice about getting to work and making sure everyone is safe.

And let’s not forget the EMTs who respond to medical calls, car accidents and whatever other emergencies arise throughout the course of their shift.

When the grand jury in Ferguson, Mo., decided not to indict Darren Wilson in the death of Michael Brown, the city nearly exploded. There was a clear divide between some residents and law enforcement, and that divide is visible in other parts of the country.

New York City Police officers Wenjian Liu, 32, and Rafael Ramos, 40, were both shot in the head Dec. 20 as they sat in their patrol car. The assailant, who was wanted for murder in Baltimore, vowed on social media that he would kill police. The man opened fire, then ran into a subway where he shot himself to death.

And late Monday night, two officers in the Bronx were shot and wounded, one critically, after responding to a robbery call at a grocery store.

In a show of support, Navarre resident Ray White has organized a march and rally slated for Saturday, Jan. 10. He created an organization, Friends of First Responders, and he’s asking members of the Navarre community to show that they stand by those who protect and serve.

The march kicks off at 11 a.m. in the Helen Back parking lot. Participants will walk to Navarre Park where they’ll hold a rally and listen to speakers. The group will march back to Helen Back to enjoy pizza and live entertainment. There will be a raffle and the opportunity for donations. All proceeds will benefit the Northwest Florida Chapter of COPS, Concerns of Police Survivors. Not a bad way to spend a Saturday morning.

If the march isn’t your thing, please keep first responders in mind this week. Thank them for all they do to keep us safe.

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