Shelby Landoll Scholarship Winning Essay:

First responders wear many hats in today’s society, as their roles stretch far beyond simply keeping the public safe. Instead, first responders are true community servants in every sense of the word. They do not simply break up fights, put out fires, and respond to emergencies. First responders are courageous leaders who have made the conscious decision to sacrifice their physical comfort, their emotional well-being, and sometimes even their lives for the greater good of the community.

These brave men and women dedicate their lives to the service of strangers without expectation of praise, notoriety, or recognition. defines a hero as “a person noted for courageous acts or nobility of character,” a definition that is appropriately descriptive of a first responder.

When I think of first responders, I always think about a specific line that John Stewart uttered shortly after the tragic events of September 11th, 2001, unfolded on that sunny September Tuesday 19 years ago. Stewart said, “The reason I don’t worry about society is that nineteen people knocked down two buildings and killed thousands. Hundreds of people rushed into those buildings to save them. I’ll take those odds every [edited for language] day.” This chilling quote alludes to two very important characteristics of first responders: 1. They run toward the emergency while everyone else runs away, and 2. They provide hope for the rest of society when hope is seemingly nowhere to be found. Their composure in the face of chaos, their bravery in the face of adversity, and their boldness in the face of terror provide a sense of faith, optimism, and encouragement for the future.

The entirety of my life has been spent surrounded by first responders. Just one month before I was born, my father became a firefighter/paramedic in the city of Columbus. 30 years later, my husband followed in his footsteps. Because of my constant exposure to these men and women of service, I have witnessed some incredible acts of heroism over the years. However, the personal experience I want to share is not one that would be regarded in society as a traditional act of valor. This story does not describe anyone dragging someone from a burning home, resuscitating someone who would have otherwise passed, or rescuing someone from a hostage situation. Instead, my experience is one that taught me that heroism is not always flashy.

I was just 16 years old, a high school basketball player who had just made a name for herself as the only sophomore to make the variety basketball team. After a long day at school, I walked my traditional route home from school, entered as I always did through the back door, and made my way into the kitchen. I saw my dad leaning up against the sink, silent, arms crossed. Weird, I thought. No “hi,” “how was your day at school,” nothing. I kept walking. As I rounded the corner into our dining room, I saw a room full of firefighters. Some that I had known since birth and others that I recognized but didn’t know well. They, too, were silent. I looked around in a panic. What was happening? That is when my dad told me my brother had committed suicide earlier that day. I remember letting out a shriek and melting into his arms.

Through the course of the night, firefighters came and went, always ensuring someone was there in case we needed anything, even if it was just a shoulder on which to cry. These men and women seemed to know exactly what we needed. They knew when to lean in and when to take a back seat. They knew when to speak up and when to stay quiet. They knew when to crack a joke and when to keep the conversation serious. They never shied away from the difficult and uncomfortable conversations that many of my closest friends have been reluctant to engage in in the years since. They remained composed and compassionate and like true first responders, gave me hope and peace when my world was falling apart.

They extended their service to my family in more tangible ways as well. One firefighter went to my high school to talk to my basketball coach, explaining to him why I would not be at practice that day. Another drove my dad two hours one way to pick up my sister, who was attending college at the University of Dayton. They provided us with endless amounts of food. They helped us cover the expensive funeral costs. They covered my dad’s shifts at the firehouse without requesting trades in return. They did it all. One of the firefighters I’ve known the longest, and one to which I have grown the closest over the years, even went with my dad to do the unimaginable: Identify the body of his own son who had gruesomely ended his own life. Because of this experience, these men and women changed my life and my perception of heroism.

There is not much more I can say about the heroics of first responders. Their job is more difficult than most can comprehend and is often incredibly thankless. While we, as community members, generally cannot ease the burden of their occupational challenges, we can be sure to thank them each and every time we see them. In true first responder fashion, they will likely deflect the appreciation, but showing our gratitude for their service is the single most important thing we can do to support their work.

McCraw Law Group First Responders Scholarship Winner - Shelby Landoll

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If you are in need of a personal injury attorney in North Texas, please contact the team at McCraw Law Group today. We are ready to help you in a broad range of serious accident and injury legal issues, and offer multiple ways to reach us.

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