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    A Thank You to First Responders

    By Mariko Pitts

    On April 15, 2013, two explosions shattered spirits in Boston. Like others, I perused the TV networks looking for action shots and updates on the whereabouts of the person responsible for this hellish deed. Saddened and hurt, I empathized with thousands of people feeling the blow to our country. I even followed political figures on social networks for collective words to ease the pain. I am guessing many of you did the same, hoping for some sort of comfort.

    During this time, a photo captured my attention. It shows a wounded marathoner sprawled on the ground with three first responders protecting him. The powerful, iconic image has had a lasting effect on me. It froze just one moment in the lives of these individuals, showing their emotions and bravery in the face of unthinkable challenges.

    I then reached out to a few friends who happen to be first responders. Through my career in public relations, I have built many friendships with firefighters, EMTs, paramedics and police officers. Ellen Luong, an EMT from Fresno, sat with me and shared lunch while I asked her why she does this type of work and what inspires her to give back to others in such an extreme way. She was a bit nervous, but with genuine modesty said, “Together we save lives; it’s just what we do. As I am the first to arrive to many situations, I am thanked in many ways by the individuals in need. It’s just what we do. I have always felt a calling to help people in this way.” Ellen, you’re my hero.

    The horrific tragedy in Boston reminded me of heroes like Ellen, whom we see on the job but might take for granted. Besides Ellen, I would like to mention Charles Lightfoot and Gabriella Robles Wijegunawardena. Thanks to them, and to so many others, for serving the public and our nation.

    We continue to mourn three deaths and lead prayers for the full recovery of the victims wounded in the Boston bombings. Now I acknowledge those in uniform and know that the death toll remained low due to the first responders on call. There are many people who have stepped into the line of fire, or better said, over the line of fear, to protect and serve those in need. I hope I can speak for countless others when I say we love and appreciate you. My thoughts and prayers go out to the victims, friends and families of the marathon tragedy.

    Mariko Pitts is a member of the San Francisco LGBT Center’s Board of Directors. She is also principal of Rhino Nine Public Relations. You can reach her at mariko.pitts@rhino9pr.com