by Nancy J. Duffy photography by Bill Ryan
Whether it was a brother who was a firefighter, a father serving a lifetime in the police department or a relative who was a paramedic, many in the field of emergency services were inspired by role models and followed in their extraordinary footsteps.
Likewise, the relationships these emergency service personnel have with the community is strong because of the relationships they have with each other at the firehouse, at the paramedic office or at the police department.
JUST ENOUGH COOKS IN THE KITCHEN
Sitting around the dining room table in the Wirt Street Fire Station, one of three that serves Hanover Borough and Penn Township, Jay Lalley, Bryan Sponseller, Doug Hemmerly and Hanover Fire Captain Charles Amspacher banter with one another. Together for six years, this group has formed a brotherhood, finishing each other’s sentences, sharing inside jokes and cooking meals for each other.
Although they could be called into action at any moment, they are relaxed and truly enjoying each other’s company.
“Tonight it’s barbeque chicken mac,” said Hemmerly, the chef for the night. “That’s why I have to work out first.”
These veteran firefighters need to eat well to serve the 30,000 people of the area. “We do with a small shift what takes 50 people to do in a big city,” Hemmerly said.
One of the most memorable fires they recalled was the Schmuck Lumber fire on Railroad Street in 1988, but the toughest one was the Amazon book fire.
“It was a sea of books,” Hemmerly recalled.
And, Sponseller added, during the renovation it burned again.
And they were there with each other.
While they are a humble group and do not give to get, they do recognize that it is “a dream to get this job.” The process of becoming a firefighter is a rigorous one, extremely selective and “we are proud of what we do,” Sponseller said.
Hemmerly noted that Confucius said “Find a job that you love and you’ll never work a day in your life.”
A broad smile made its way across his face.
“They pay me to ride a fire truck,” he said.
ALL IN THE FAMILY
A life of service for Deputy Fire Chief Anthony Crouser is linked to his father.
As newly-promoted Crouser sits in his High Street office, he thinks of his father’s career and how it drew a young teen to a career of service.
“My dad had his coat, helmet and boots by the door to the basement,” always ready for that emergency, that call, Crouser said.
Crouser remembers his first call at 16 years old with his father.
“There was an accident, a fatality,” he recalled. “He let me watch from a distance.” Then, Crouser said, his father called him over to the car, where there was a person inside who had passed away. Crouser leaned closer, and then, “my dad shoved my head in the car window” to see if his son really wanted to pursue this.
With shock and awe comes purpose, and Crouser knew this was the career path for him.
FILLING A NEED
The Community Paramedic Program is up and running in the Hanover area.
Born out of need to bridge the gap of patient care after discharge from Hanover Hospital and prevent readmission, this free service helps patients with transportation to doctor appointments, as well as taking medications as instructed.
Eric Durham, a 19-year veteran paramedic and coordinator of this community outreach program, said the program helps patients understand their follow-up care.
“We see patients four to eight times a month,” Durham said. The paramedics see about three or four patients a day.
“The community has been all for it,” he said.
Durham and his team of three other paramedics – Brian Wheeler, Amy Martin and Kim Kaiser – work through Hanover Hospital to meet patient needs.
“Helping people is what keeps us going, and the adrenaline,” Durham said. “Every day is different.”
A MATTER OF TRUST
Chief Michael Woods of the McSherrystown Police Department grew up with German Shepherds. He knows and loves the breed.
For Woods, German Shepherds were considered family.
And now, as he patrols the streets, Ozi, a 6-year-old German Shepherd, patrols with him. Trust is important in any relationship, Woods notes, especially with your partner on the job, and especially when your partner is a dog.
Ozi has patrolled alongside Woods for the past 2 ½ years. Originally from another police station in Somer’s Point, N.J., Woods found out quickly that Ozi was going to be a perfect crime-fighting partner.
“On the three-hour drive home Ozi was quiet,” Woods said. “Neither of us really said anything or interacted for a long time.” However, at a stop for some fuel, Woods was speaking with another officer who approached the window. Without hesitation, Ozi rushed to the window, barking, in protection of Woods.
“We had only known each other for about an hour,” Woods said. “Ozi was already protecting me.”
With a sense of smell 2 million times greater than humans, Ozi has been trained as a duel-purpose dog: he tracks and patrols. He is highly skilled in both areas and acts on both verbal and gestured cues from Woods when on a job.
“[Ozi’s] value is immeasurable,” Woods said. “Everybody recognizes him and loves him.”
Even though a shift may be over, these emergency service personnel are never off duty, because serving others is what they do; it’s in their blood.
“There is really no difference in who I am when I am on duty compared to who I am at home,” Woods said.
As a parent and a husband, Woods helps and protects his family; as a police officer, he helps and protects an entire community of families.
Whether it is fighting fires, educating patients or keeping the streets safe, the desire to serve grows from love of family.