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First responders respond in that life-changing instant


One instant.

A life can change in a single instant.

It’s happened to many of us, and to people we love.

If we have a flat tire, many of us know how to change it. But if we have a broken arm, we can’t take care if it ourselves. If our child gets a serious cut, we’re probably not equipped to stitch it up.

Many of us can’t even handle the sight of a drop of blood.

But there is a group of people out there -- thank God -- who are trained and willing to act to help us in those life-changing instants.

Injury. Car wrecks. Surgery. Crime. Fire. Heart attacks. Stroke.

There are a thousand different things that can happen to us in that instant.

Who is helping?

These are the first responders.

These are the people who are working at 3 a.m. in the emergency room, the people answering the 9-1-1 calls at midnight, and the people responding to all kinds of dangerous situations.

We salute them in our special section this week “A Salute to First Responders.” Check the center of the Bulletin for that.

As a newspaperman, I’ve sometimes been a second responder over the years, attending accidents and such, observing first responders up close and personal.

One of the more memorable times was a car crash when I was working at the Alamogordo Daily News.

It was pretty obvious when I got there the accident was caused by a drunk driver running a red light.

Thankfully, no one was seriously injured, but on this otherwise quiet Sunday afternoon, I watched the first responders closely.

The victims had wound up on the northwest corner of the intersection, while the drunk driver was on the southeast corner.

The EMTs were tending to the victims’ minor injuries and assessing the drunk driver.

The police were on scene and I was struck by the actions of one particular officer.

While he remained businesslike throughout, I noticed his demeanor change as he crossed the street talking to both parties.

With the drunk driver, he was stern and persistent in seeking information, without screaming or cursing.

With the victims, he was comforting and assuring, while still seeking the information needed.

I knew the officer’s name from previous meetings, and he was courteous in responding to my questions as a journalist.

His name was Al Marchand.

Marchand retired not long after that, achieving his dream of becoming a flight attendant, and a life of travel.

The next time his name was in the news, however, was for the worst of reasons.

He was working United Airlines Flight 175 leaving Boston to Los Angeles. But the flight took an unexpected detour to New York City.

The date? Sept. 11, 2001.