Stamp launch honouring paramedics gets emotional
Wooden chair legs scraped against the concrete floor as everyone stood in unison, took off their hats, closed their eyes and bowed their heads for a moment of silence.
This was not just any stamp unveiling. This stamp honours Canada’s paramedics. It was the first of a five-stamp Emergency Responders issue paying tribute to the courageous members of the Canadian Armed Forces, firefighters, paramedics, police officers, and search and rescue experts who protect and assist Canadians in emergencies.
This was not just any city. It was Fredericton, just one month after the fatal shooting of police constables Robb Costello and Sara Burns.
And so everyone at the Ambulance New Brunswick Regional Headquarters and Fleet Centre in Fredericton stood to honour those fallen Fredericton officers. It was a poignant reminder that emergency responders risk their lives – and sometimes lose them – in the service of their fellow Canadians.
Not long after, there was a reminder that emergency responders save lives, too. It came with an unexpected reunion and outburst of gratitude.
It started when George Woodworth moved his wheelchair to the front of the room. Silence fell again.
He’s the vice-president of Ability New Brunswick, a non-profit group that strives to improve the lives of people in the province living with mobility disability. He described the hunting accident that left him paralyzed from the chest down 11 years ago.
Paramedics found him – broken, brain-damaged and belligerent – under a tree at the far end of a muddy cornfield. They saved his life, he said.
“You give your very best even when you don’t know if it will make a difference,” he said. “Trust me, it always makes a difference.”
After that day, Woodworth said, he never had a chance to thank his rescuers; he didn’t know their names. Hearing this, paramedics at the Fleet Centre took out their cell phones and started dialing. Within minutes, they had named and found Woodworth’s protectors. They gathered around him.
“You found them, you found them!” Woodworth said before a paramedic held her phone to his ear.
At last he could say thank you directly.
Gratitude was a theme throughout the unveiling event.
Along with the city’s mayor and Member of Parliament, representatives of the Paramedic Association of Canada, Ambulance New Brunswick and the Paramedic Association of New Brunswick expressed gratitude for the recognition the stamp gives the profession. The Official First Day Cover (OFDC) bearing the stamp was cancelled in Fredericton in honour of the province rolling out its advanced care paramedic program.
Dave Myles, a paramedic and singer-songwriter from Saint John, drove to the event to perform Bring Me Back. “Bring me back, I don’t want to leave if there’s a tomorrow. Bring me back, I’m not ready to go. Bring me back…” He wrote the song four years ago in honour of his paramedic partner, who developed PTSD and committed suicide.
There were tears at the event – for hard work done well, for people who have died, and for lives that have been altered.
But there were smiles too – for an overdue reunion and for the chance to hear and say a heartfelt thank you.
All five stamps in the series are for sale at retail outlets across the country and at canadapost.ca.