The First First Responders


Oklahoma City spun with activity all weekend. 

Everywhere you went, the sound of chain saws filled the air as people cut fallen trees into kindling. A house not far from mine lost a big part of its roof. I don’t mean that the storm took off the shingles. It lifted the roof off the house like it was a child’s miniature playhouse, and then dumped about 8 inches of rainwater into the interior. It also tore up a tree in the front yard and tossed it in a neighbor’s drive.

People piled in to help. There were men nailing new beams up and others cutting the tree into pieces. A whole troupe of neighbors pitched in to drag away the rubbish and bail out the water. In a few hours, the house had an ugly blue tarp where its roof had been, but it was reasonably dry and habitable until major repairs could put it back the way it was before the storm.

Almost no one had power, so people were sleeping on sofas in the houses of friends in the few houses that did have power. Relatives and friends had already taken in lots of people from the earlier tornado. Now, we were packing them in tighter.

We had mass and our holy hour with the Pope without power, and I have to say it was nice. I enjoyed the relative quiet of no organ, no sound system, etc. It was even nice to have the sanctuary door open and hear the buzzing sound of chain saws.

I think it is very important to go forward with church services in times like this. It doesn’t matter if you have to pray in a parking lot. People need stability. They need the comfort of worship and in the case of mass, the Eucharist. They need one another.

Which gets me to the real point of this reminiscence, and that is the first first responders and how much we need them.

The tornado on May 20 took out whole neighborhoods. Everything was rubble-ized. Help was coming, and everybody knew it. But minutes were also ticking by in which a trapped person might either smother or be saved. There was no time to sit around and wait for the authorities to come blaring in with their sirens and equipment.

Everybody who was alive and able got to work immediately lifting rubble and looking for other survivors. The tornado had no more than passed when neighbors began helping other neighbors to dig out.

The same thing happened in Boston. As soon as the bomb went off people began moving barricades and going to help other people.

There are folks alive today in both cities because of the quick action of their neighbors.

The first first responders are your neighbors. When that first line of defense fails, terrible things happen.

I remember a couple of years ago a young girl was gang-raped at a school event in California in front of a crowd of onlookers who did nothing. There is the horrible story that shocked a nation of a lady named Kity Genovese who was murdered in her apartment while her neighbors heard her screams for help and didn’t even call the police.

What happens when community breaks down and people stop helping people? The answer to that is simple: We start to die when we would live otherwise. More to the point, the monsters among us begin to reign over us. 

I watched the videos of the aftermath of the savage murder in Britain a few days ago. It was bemusing to see this murdering maniac hopping from one side of the street to the other, standing over the dead soldier’s body like an animal guarding its kill, spouting lunatic rhetoric. They filmed him. One woman went up to him and talked to him. But nobody took him down.

One reason why he was able to get away with this is obvious: He was armed and they were not. He was covered with the blood of the young man he had slaughtered and he was waving the machete he’d used to do the deed as he shouted his justifications for his actions.

The by-standers evidently didn’t feel threatened, but they also took no action. Even if they didn’t have a gun — which they clearly did not — couldn’t they have picked up clubs, gotten themselves organized and taken Mister Raving Lunatic Islamic Radical out?

The British are brave people. They’ve proven that over and again. They are also strong and resourceful. I admire them enormously. I don’t know much about British law, but I have a feeling that there must be something in that law which prohibits people from taking action. I know that London is a big city and that people disengage from one another in big cities. The sheers numbers destroy community on a larger scale and leave people isolated in a crowd.

But, in truth, if we don’t help one another, we are doomed. That’s what civilization is: People helping one another. 

America has suffered almost endless attacks these past forty years on the organizing units which build community and bind us together. The way we have decimated the family is an obvious one. Less obvious is the way we have been encouraged and even pushed to abandon and destroy our community groups. The most recent example of this is the fall of the Boy Scouts to political correctness.

If we ever lose this sense of community and fellowship that binds us together, we will also lose our first first responders along with it. Social destruction has a high cost. The cost in crime, psycho-social destruction of individuals, families and organizations, the loss of initiative and national purpose are obvious. But when disaster strikes and people stand around waiting for official first responders rather than taking up the work of going to help themselves, a lot of people will die needlessly.

People who go into a storm shelter in Oklahoma when a tornado is coming do so with the knowledge that they may end up trapped due to tons of debris landing on their shelter door. They are able to go ahead and go down in that hole because they know that as soon as the winds stop, their neighbors will be there, digging them out. All they have to do is yell for help.

People who stand and watch while a young girl is raped, who don’t even call the police while a woman screams as she is murdered, who stand around and watch helplessly while a lunatic speechifies over the body of his victim like an animal guarding its kill, have lost pieces of their birthright as human beings. They’ve stopped being neighbors and become a crowd.

I know the on-lookers in Britain were stunned. I don’t know, but I have a feeling that the law somehow or other added to the helplessness they exhibited. Having said that, I hope they find a way to react more aggressively the next time one of these things happens.

Because there will be a next time. It may not play out exactly like this did, probably won’t, in fact. But there is an endless supply of murdering maniacs who feel empowered by our Western codependence masquerading as “tolerance” to act out their darker impulses. Western society has been empowering monsters for quite some time now and we are paying the price of our codependence in the face of outrageous behavior with lost freedoms. If you doubt that, just take a trip on one of our airlines.

Tornados come down from the sky. But bombs and machetes are wielded by human hands.

Whenever and however destruction of human life happens, the first first responders are us. We must help one another without waiting for the authorities to come. Most of the time, when someone shoves back the rubble, opens your shelter door and reaches in to help you out, it’s your neighbor.

I hope I never see a day when that’s not true.

This video of news coverage in the first few minutes after the Moore tornado of a couple of weeks ago shows neighbors helping neighbors.

YouTube Preview Image

The Story of the Armenian Genocide
Apple Watch Review: Do NOT Buy
Pope Accepts Bishop Finn's Resignation
When It Comes to Caring for Your Parent with Dementia, You are Alone.
  • Linda Kreger

    I hadn’t thought of the possibility that something in the law prohibited English citiens from trying to stop that murder. It’s possible, I suppose. It’s hard for me to imagine just standing there, though, law or no law.

    I grew up in the midwest, where tornadoes are a part of life in the summer months. Neighbors did help neighbors. As soon as the storm passed, phones began to ring if the wires weren’t down, people checking on others whoo had been in the path of the twister It’s just what you did, back then. Offers of food, childcare, farm help, whatever–no one was left to wait for government to take charge.

  • Teresamerica

    Yes, indeed being a community is very important. People helping one another is very important. Seems like many people have lost that sense of being human, being neighborly. Seems like quite a few people have become desensitized in this day and age. Plus people ignore things not wanting to get involved. Do we have generations of persons brought up to be selfish? Thinking me me me? Seems like it to me. I am so happy that you and your family are safe. God Bless

    Teresa @ Catholibertarian

  • Stefanie

    I had a similar situation happen to me a few months ago. I live in an ‘gentrified’ area surrounded by various gangs in Northeast L.A. county. On my way to the post office, on the main boulevard that runs from one town to another, as I was rolling up to a busy intersection, I noticed that a young man was being beaten by two other young men. The victim was holding onto his bike for dear life. As I automatically but slowly pulled over, I began honking my horn. the other drivers also honked their horns at the young men, but when the light changed, they drove their cars away. I pulled up to the curb next to the assault, rolled down my passenger window and began shouting, “I have a phone and I’m calling the police!” I kept honking my horn and screaming at them. Within seconds, the perps took off and ran in the opposite direction, towards some industrial buildings. The victim placed his hands on my passenger door and begged me to take him to his home. I pointed out that he did have his bike and he was unharmed and that I would wait until he got across the intersection. He thanked me and started to cry, he was so full of adrenaline. He told me “maybe I should have hurt them and then they would have left me alone. they had a gun. they could have hurt me!.” He then pulled up his shirt and showed me that he had a small pocketknife in his jean pocket. “No,” I told him, “Violence is not the answer. God sent me to protect you and I did. You need to pray for those boys. I will pray for them, too.”

    Naturally, when I got home later, my husband didn’t think too kindly of my intervention.

    Once I saw a woman being beaten late one night on the hood of a car and I drove by and never reported it. I vowed then I would never do that again. God sends us to intervene.

  • Imelda

    We are, in a sense, our brother’s keeper. Charity calls for us to be Good Samaritans to each other.

  • Fabio Paolo Barbieri

    In our part of the world, it’s floods. (As a matter of fact, half of Germany, Austria and the Czech Republic are under water as I write.) Now there is a magnificent series of short stories – some of which have been translated into English, and I recommend them to you – called the Don Camillo series, by Giovanni Guareschi, where there is a story somewhat like that. The most shaking moment, to me, is the Sunday of the great flood of 1951 (a historical event), when the whole population of the village whose life is the subject of the stories are looking down at their houses, flooded and ruined by the raging river Po. In utter silence. One old man says aloud: “There is no God”…. and then they hear the bells of mid-day Mass. Their priest (the fearless Don Camillo, protagonist of many of the stories) has stayed behind, and is now celebrating Mass, though the church is flooded and he has water to his midriff. The bell rings for Consecration – and they all kneel. It rings again for the Dismissal, and they disperse to look for some sort of lunch. I don’t know whether anything like that really happened, but if didn’t, it should have.

  • D. A. Christianson

    I meant to comment on this earlier but got pulled away. As I suspect you saw, we talked a bit about this over at Jess’s Watchtower, and I wrote about it. Most disheartening thing I’ve ever seen. Every single Brit, several of which are highly respected Phd’s as well as very strong Christians was completely convinced that they had to wait for the police (for 20 minutes, in London), that they had no right to take action for themselves.

    I may be wrong, but I’m pretty much of the opinion that if that is really what the people believe, Great Britain is done, over, finished.