Friday, September 2, 2011

And Her Name Was Irene...

As a Florida resident for the last 19 years and having experienced both Hurricane Andrew and Hurricane Wilma, many of my co-residents considered ourselves quite lucky that we did not have to experience a full-on encounter with Hurricane Irene. However, what was lucky for us proved to be terribly tragic for those living from North Carolina up through Vermont.

Over 40 deaths have been reported to date. Damages are so high that Irene has been placed in the Top-10 most expensive natural disasters in recorded U.S. history. I grew up outside of Boston, MA and can remember preparing and then experiencing a couple of hurricanes, as well as numerous blizzards and nor'easters. However, nothing I experience in my first 22 years bore any resemblance to what Hurricane/Tropical Storm Irene brought to the northeast.

The loss of life of just one person is one too many in any one's book, but one loss that I had heard of shortly after fire-rescue operations began in New Jersey, hit home harder today when I received the monthly alumni newsletter from Brandeis University, from which I graduated in 1974.

When I attended the school, it was before I had had the opportunity of volunteering in either the fire or rescue services. Living just a short 18 miles from Boston and another 15 miles from Worcester, 99% of eastern Massachusetts was, and continues to be services by career fire-rescue agencies. Simply put, there was no chance for me to volunteer until the mid 1970's. While attending Brandeis, I was able to land a campus job with campus security (unarmed, at that time). Our main task was to verify parking passes across the beautiful suburban campus and write infraction tickets. 

In 1983 Brandeis established Brandeis Emergency Medical Corp or BEMco. It has been staffed by over 670 student volunteers, all trained to state-standards in BLS or basic life support. Any number of its members have gone on to become physicians, physician-assistants, and paramedics. One of those volunteers was Princeton First Aid & Rescue Squad member, Michael Kenwood. Michael, a quick-water rescue technician, lost his life after attempting to ascertain if a submerged vehicle, overtaken by flooding waters, was occupied.

Here is the community story about this hero, who he was and what he did:

So, though I may not have known him, we traveled on many of the same paths, attending classes on the same campus and offering our time and energies to help those in need. However, Michael paid the ultimate cost for his duty to his community. May his memory be for a blessing and may he rest in peace.

And Irene was her name...

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