Elves on a Ladder Truck

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Tom Horne

Dec 24, 2016, 10:52:50 PM12/24/16
Elves on a Ladder Truck

Many years ago I ran an ambulance call for an injured child and was advised on route that a baby was being shaken out a window and police were en route. The policy that we follow today of staying out of insecure violent incidents was not written down back then and the actions you took were at your discretion. We continued into the scene and dispatch told us that the baby was being used to extort money from the mother. On arrival we saw that a baby was indeed being waved out a window by his feet three stories in the air. As we ran up the stairs my partner said "If you can distract the guy for just a minute I can get the baby." I was terrified that the baby would fall to his death and shaking with anger at the same time. A crying child opened the door and said "He's hurting my brother." I entered the living room and spoke as calmly as I could manage. The assailant looked at me with wild eyes and said "Don't touch me cop or I smash the brat." I realized that he had mistaken my fire service uniform for that of the police. I said "I'm a firefighter. I only want to check the baby." Suddenly a pair of hands appeared and grabbed the child. In the adjacent kitchen my driver had gone out the window and reached across to grab the child without belay or back up three stories in the air. The perpetrator (perp) looked at his now empty hand and then charged me intent on the impulse to escape. I swung the Oxygen set at his head and I thank God I missed. The tank busted a large hole in the metal lath and plaster wall. Having ducked under the blow the assailant fled. I took a ragged breath and looked around at one of the bleaker rooms I had ever seen. One bare bulb, broken furniture, an empty drawer in use as a crib made up most of the rooms contents. My partner came in from the adjacent kitchen holding a baby very close to him saying over and over "He's all right. He's all right."

We executed the protocol for a shaken baby, gathered up mother and two other children and started down the stairs to greet an Army of police officers from four different agencies. We loaded the family while the Law Enforcement officers (LEOs) got a description of the perp. from us. It was the only truly complete description I had ever given of anyone. Working from the picture of the madman that was etched into my brain I described him from the hair on his head to the salt stains on his shoes. After transporting the entire family to children's hospital we transported the assailant that the LEOs had caught up with some distance away. He had put up a fight and two officers had the bruises to prove it but they had subdued him and we took him in for stitches. Upon return to quarters the incident caught up with me and I went into the hose tower and screamed.

The firefighter who had been one of my EMT evaluators took and sat me down and made me tell him about every detail of the incident that I had seen. When I was finally done he said "You can't fix the world but you can mend parts of it." He got the shift together and said "we have a family to care for." "Are you out of your mind? It's Christmas eve! Most of the stores are closed." the shift chorused. The captain spoke up and said "I think this shift could pull it off on Christmas day." No one argued any further. The Ambulance went to the grocery, the truck to the Toy's R Us, the engine to a child care supply store. Between the three units we assembled a Christmas for a family that had nothing and needed everything. The last item was the only Christmas tree that had not been bought at the departments tree sale fund raiser. The crew shortened that pore scraggly thing at both ends and trimmed it to a decent shape. A raid on an 24 hour pharmacy scored lights and ornaments. We called the hospital and found they would not be done with the baby for several more hours. The family would be sent home in a taxi in the morning. It was eleven PM before we were completely ready and by now the guys were really into it. We arrived back at the apartment building, laddered the apartment, and hauled all the supplies up the aerial since the apartment door had a double cylinder Detroit jimmy proof lock. The only problem was a drunken neighbor who demanded to know why they were getting the special service. I looked him dead in the eye and said "the regulations say I don't have to answer questions from drunks." He seemed to accept that and walked away. Two different LEOs came by with a few more things and we all agreed that; at least for one day; the baby's brother and sister, and yes, even his mom could believe in Santa Claus.

Some of you will have read my account of this incident before. But every Christmas Eve it comes back to me very strongly and I feel the need to share it again.

Firefighter / Rescuer Thomas D. Horne speaking for himself and not the
Takoma Park Volunteer Fire Department an assisting agency of the
Montgomery County Fire and Rescue Service, Maryland, USA

Well, we aren't no thin blue heroes and yet we aren't no blackguards to
We're just working men and women most remarkable like you.
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