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Sunday, June 26, 2011


The new junior cadets are usually amusing to observe. They fall into a few different categories. I won't try to identify all of them, but some of the major names I use are "whacker", "zealot", "trooper", "student", and "roadkill".

Sometimes they move from one to the other over time. I try to move as many as I can into the "student" category, but some never escape where they started, and it is all you can do sometimes to simply keep them alive after they've been cleared for whatever reason to run calls with the duty crews. But we do manage to create an adequate number of decent contributors from them to make the effort worthwhile.

I used to just let them come along on whatever came up. When it was up to me, there were various unofficial loose limits that I would impose on their proximity to the subjects of the call, depending on what was up. That all changed on an otherwise fine late October evening when trooper cadet Sean was hanging out at the station.

Engine 61, Medic 61, car vs. pedestrian on the State Highway.....

That is never, ever good.

Sean was immediately excited, because he knew immediately that it was going to be a good call. As Jody, the senior medic, strode to the pole, Sean asked if he could ride the box. Jody didn't even pause, just nodded. I don't think Jody was thinking about Sean, he was already thinking about the good call, or rather how it wasn't going to be all that good.

I didn't think much of it either at the time, except for the aw crap sinking feeling you get in the pit of your stomach when you pretty much know exceptionally bad things have happened leading to this 911 call. I just joined the procession to the apparatus floor to take my place on the engine.

Medic 61 got a pretty good jump on us, but we could see them way up ahead of us as they turned onto the onramp, with a deputy coming from the other way and following them onto the highway. We were just approaching the scene when Medic 61 cleared us. There was nothing for us to do. There were two deputies on the scene, blocking the highway, just a couple of cars stopped. Traffic was light. The Captain didn't argue, and likely was as relieved as I was that we were let go. Conveniently, there was a median turnaround just before the scene, and we took it.

It wasn't more than 20 minutes or so when Medic 61 was cleared. After we got back, someone said something about Sean being on there. Well, it is what it is.

Sean got out of the ambulance as soon as it stopped backing up, stone faced. Gave a few half-hearted grins with empty eyes, and went to the bathroom. He waved absently as he went home shortly thereafter.

We never saw him at the station again.

Jody told us that the victim was missing a leg, and they asked Sean to stay in the safe zone behind the blocking squad cars while they helped look for it. Doing as he was told, Sean did. Morbid curiosity probably drove him to examine the striking vehicle, a full-size pickup. And very bad luck led to Sean finding the missing leg, embedded deeply in the smashed front of the truck.

Not a good welcome to the job for young eyes. Just that fast, Sean went from trooper cadet, one with some promise, to roadkill. Violently.

Sean might have eventually been a valued contributing member to the service, but the trauma of what he'd seen snipped him before he could grow into the role.

I don't know where Sean is today, but I think about him from time to time. And I have tried very hard to not let another cadet or probie get snipped. Some still leave for whatever reason, but we don't have to help them out the door by unnecessarily throwing them in to the proverbial fire either. Now, I evaluate most every call before I let the cadets come along.

Go easy on the new kids and give them time to grow into the bleak tragedy we sometimes face. Don't snip them.

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