Adventures on Horseback: Angels look like firefighters

Published 8:00 am Wednesday, May 23, 2018

For those who have never seen an angel, you need simply visit your local emergency rescue squad. 

They have certainly been angels for the people of Tryon over the last few days.

Several years ago, when I was reporting a fire, I managed to get my truck stuck on a forest road in the dark, in the middle of a forest fire. It wasn’t a very smart thing to do, but in the pursuit of stories journalists tend to, “… boldly go . . .” — or should I say, “foolishly go?”

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I was desperately trying to dig my truck out with tree branches when a firefighter drove up the trail in a jeep and pulled me out. On that day, I knew what angels looked like.

As I view the devastation and hear the stories of the victims of this past weekend’s disaster, I hear over and over heroic stories of rescue workers helping. People have told me how they walked up a mud and debris strewn street in absolute darkness to answer a call for help.

Those firefighters had no idea what they were walking into. They had no idea if the ground was safe or if another mudslide would hit at any minute and sweep them away — and yet they went. Without question, without hesitation, they went.

Others related how rescue workers tried in vain to help Patricia Case in the last moments of her life. Despite the ground shifting under their feet and danger of being swept away themselves, they did everything they could. When they could not save her, they were there for her husband, trying to help and trying to recover what they could.

Another resident wrote a harrowing story of an heroic rescue from the top of her van. Emergency workers pulled her through rushing waters filled with tress, rocks, even mailboxes that nearly swept her van away.

When I talk with the emergency personnel, they downplay their heroism — as do all true heroes.

They simply say, “We worked to get people out of cars that were stranded.”

They don’t tell you about the waters rushing past, the debris knocking them about or the ground washing out from under them. They don’t talk about wading knee deep through mud to free stranded people.

They certainly don’t talk about the hours and hours they spend going door to door checking on every resident to be sure they are safe and fed.

Though most emergency personnel are not horsemen or women, rescue workers are a big, and much needed part of the equestrian community. Nearly all of those involved with horses will at sometime, if their equine career is long enough, have need of emergency help.

Emergency personnel aren’t paid a lot, they don’t gain political or personal power through their jobs and they are typically shy of fame and prestige. They simply respond to a need, no matter how small or how great.

How does one thank an angel? How can mere words describe the value of their service?