I will be the first to admit that anywhere where there is sun, sand and salt water will put a smile on my face. In South Texas that usually means venturing off to the Corpus Christi area.
From Atascosa County I get to look forward to a long trek down I-37. A journey with little to distract you except ranches and the cotton fields of San Patricio and Nueces County.
It was on this road that I was recently traveling, returning home, when through the rain that was falling, I saw the instant illumination of several taillights in front of me. Seeing taillights all come on together when you are driving on a flat highway that has a 75 mph speed limit is usually not a good thing, and this incident drove that point home.
Right in front of me a horrific traffic accident had JUST occurred. A vehicle that had lost control and crossed the median flying head on into a truck traveling on the opposite side of the highway.
For those in my industry, traffic accidents are just NOT a fun part of police work. People are often hurt and emotions run high, and at some accidents you know before you get out of your car that it’s going to be bad. This was one of those.
By pure coincidence an off-duty Corpus Christi officer was traveling in a vehicle right next to mine. He did what any officer would do and jumped out to render aid to those in the wrecked cars. A second or two later I joined him. If having two off duty cops traveling right next to each other when a major accident happens is not coincidence enough, a fire fighter from the San Antonio area was in a vehicle a few feet away.
It didn’t take long to realize that there was a fatality and another man was trapped in a mangled pick-up truck. As you can imagine several onlookers joined in to help, including a Catholic priest who did an amazing job of helping calm the victims. As we did what we could with the little bit of resources we had, the “cavalry” began to show up. Police Officers from 2 different nearby towns, as well as sheriff’s deputies, troopers and volunteer firemen from varying departments. Everybody swung into action as if it was second nature.
Being the Police Chief here in Jourdanton, I have grown used to being at the center of emergency situations, but I am often so wrapped up in my duties at such events that I don’t stop to observe the other role players and how it is as a team that lives are often saved from the brink of death.
That wasn’t the case on this particular Sunday. Once first responders swung into action I was able to take a moment and step back to watch how people who had never seen each other before, and would likely never see each other again, joined the firefighters to help extricate a man trapped in a crushed truck. I watched as a priest gave last rights to a deceased victim, and a family comforted a passenger who survived the wreck as they waited with him for medical attention.
I saw a microcosm of our society. People who weren’t asked to help, but saw that help was needed and didn’t hesitate to jump in and aid their fellow Texans.
Events like this elicit a wide variety of emotions. You feel a bit of the grief that consumes the family of someone who lost their life, you feel relief when the jaws of life free someone from the wreckage and you feel pride at seeing your fellow man rush to someone’s rescue, regardless if it is what they are getting paid for or not.
We here in Jourdanton, Pleasanton and Poteet are no different than our neighbors who reminded me of the mettle South Texans are made of.
Right here at home, when crisis strikes, Atascosa County answers the call. Whether it’s our volunteer firefighters, our EMTs, or our police officers, deputies and troopers, our clergy or even citizens who regularly assist us when we are short on manpower, we live in an extraordinary part of this nation where community matters.
It mattered when wildfires struck our neighbors and we collected more donations than we knew how to transport.
It mattered when floods struck recently and strangers rescued strangers whose houses and roads were submerged.
It mattered when ordinary citizens showed up in force to search for an elderly person lost in the brush.
The list could go on and on…
We are always grateful for those that stop and thank us for what we do as first responders, but let’s not forget that it’s the community around who not only enable us to perform when the time comes, but who also rolls up their sleeves and answers the call when a crisis strikes.
I truly believe that our friends and family, as well as the ordinary people that we interact with everyday know more than most, in Atascosa County…community matters.
Until next time,
Chief Eric Kaiser