Tough To Handle! … Heroes And Sheroes In The USA


Utility worker jumps onto subway tracks, saves man just before train's arrival
Utility worker jumps onto subway tracks, saves man just before train’s arrival

Last week there was a news account of a woman crashing her car in New England as she swerved off of the road into a tree with an approximate three foot girth and with such force that it broke its top off twenty feet above her car from the impact of her collision. The car, then, caught fire.

Driving by at the time was a man in his eighties with EMT (Emergency Medical Technicians) training. He stopped his car and ran down the hill to her vehicle while knowing fully well that at any moment the gas tank could blow up and kill him.

He went forward anyway. The smoke was so thick that he nearly passed out from lack of oxygen and he couldn’t see the car’s occupant. So he felt around for her with his hands through the smoke and dragged her out of the car by the shoulders.

My father undertook a similar action. He was near Albany, NY, USA. He saw a farmer’s truck carrying hay burst into flames on a bridge with the driver passed out at the wheel. He stopped his car before the bridge, ordered my mother to crouch behind their car and then ran like hell while crouched over to the farmer’s truck since he knew that it could explode due to the gas tank at any moment.

Indeed, it did explode before my father got there. Indeed, my father would have been killed had he been closer and I would not be here then today as this happened before I was born.

Further in the news, we hear of stories about people who jump down off of high platforms onto dirty train tracks to save others who have fallen off of the platforms. The rescuers go after the fallen ones while knowing fully well that their jumping might land them on the third-rail that would immediately electrocute them. They also know that they might get run over by a train or a subway. They do the action, anyway, and sometimes just before a train or a subway comes into a station.

These fine people exist across the world. They exist in every country. They are part of the group who are my heroes and sheroes because they act in service for help of compromised others (even at peril to their own lives sometimes) and reflect the values that bring hope to humanity.

There, though, is another class of heroes and sheroes:

There are a number of jobs that I wouldn’t want to have. One is to be a psychotherapist. I can’t imagine hearing from a patient about her being raped by a relative from age six to sixteen. I can’t picture myself having another one, who was court-ordered to have therapy because he beat up the mother of his child, set the rug in her house on fire and pushed his one year old child in her stroller toward the flames. (This is a true event that took place in MA and was on the news two weeks ago.)

Someone does this sort of job, especially since it is very much needed. He is a hero or a shero since it can’t be easy since what horrendous learning one must subsume into oneself. Surely it can cause nightmares!

Likewise, I can’t imagine being a policeman wherein a driver with road rage is ready to blow off my face because I pulled him over in a routine traffic stop. I can’t imagine chasing robbers down the street, who are in possession of an assault rifle.

I also can’t imagine being a firefighter. We lost six around seven miles from my home some years ago. Look at who we lost as they were battling flames and looking for any survivors:


… Worcester Cold Storage Warehouse fire that resulted in the line of duty death of six courages brother firefighters.


Worcester Fire Fighters Dying at an Alarming Rate, Not From Fires

GoLocalWorcester | Worcester Fire Fig

Excerpted: According to a report entitled “Dying for Work in Massachusetts: The Loss of Life and Limb in Massachusetts Workplaces,” all three of Worcester’s reported deaths in 2013 were firefighters. Even more striking is that all three firefighters – as well as the nine total firefighters that died throughout Massachusetts – died because of work-related illnesses such as heart disease or cancer. 

“Unfortunately, firefighters are exposed to a whole list of substantial and dangerous hazards,” said Marcy Goldstein-Gelb, the Executive Director of the Massachusetts Coalition for Occupational Safety and Health (MassCOSH). “There are many biological, chemical, and ergonomic hazards as well as exposure to high heats and extreme stress levels which all can lead to various health problems later on in life.”

I also can’t imagine being a school guidance counselor, although one of my younger relatives is one. So these are the types of events with which she has to routinely deal:

The Joy Ride

Two mothers live in an apartment building without husbands. (Maybe they never had any.) It is a low-income apartment building, subsidized by the government.  In other words, they live there at no cost in rent for themselves.

One has three children and the other has two, and the two mothers are very bored with their lives. So they concoct a plan to have a little fun together after their children are asleep.

You see, their neighbor, an old man, died just about a week beforehand, and the two mothers have been eyeing his car sitting in his driveway. (Neither woman is wealthy enough to own a car, but do know the way to drive.) So they decided that they will take it out on a joy-ride and bring along some liquor to drink after their children are in bed.

So they break into the car and ride around for a while until they are caught driving erratically for being drunk in the stolen vehicle. So they both land in jail at around 3:00 a.m.

The children wake up the next morning without their mothers. However they know about what to do.

The oldest children make toast for breakfast for the youngest ones and themselves. They walk the young ones to their bus stop and, then, wait for their own buses, themselves, since they don’t attend the same school as the youngest children.

Then department of social services people, who were notified by the police of the situation, swoop in at the end of the school day to pick up the children so that they can go home to pack a suitcase each since they will all be put in separate foster homes. The DSS people are furious that the school guidance counselors didn’t know of the situation. Yet how would they since the children acted and looked normal. … Now as their chief guidance counselor, you will have to counsel these children.

Who Do Voodoo? You Do Voodoo?

The boy from the Caribbean island was diagnosed with clinical depression by his doctor and his grades were slipping at school since he just couldn’t focus due to his ailment. The parents of the boy think that he is possess by the Devil based on their religion that intertwines Voodoo and Catholicism. They don’t believe in the truth of the medical cause for his behavior and want an exorcism to be rid of the evil Demon making their boy unwell.

As a guidance counselor, what do you do since it is a sticky situation involving separation of church and state? Cleverly, you involve the school nurse to talk to the voodoo priest. Perhaps the parents will listen to him if he is told the medical facts and described the medical model by the school nurse. Then he can relate the information to the parents as someone credible to deliver reliable, empirically derived and accurate information. Then the boy can be treated as a result.

Almost Too Hard to Bear

In addition to teaching social skills to shy awkward children, anti-bullying techniques as lessons to whole classes, test anxiety skills to whole classes, the way to deal with the death of a beloved relative to a child who lost one, and myriad other skills to individuals and whole classes — you will also develop lessons for children whose parents are in prison to help them process the event.

(One eleven year old boy told my young relative that he was scared since his father was now in prison and his mother previously had been in one. So he was afraid since he didn’t know about what would happen to him if both were in prison at once. He was having panic attacks on account and my relative met him during her lunch break, which she didn’t take, since he couldn’t attend her class on the topic due to his course schedule. … She handled his problem in a way that made him feel secure.)

As a guidance counselor, you will also help a child, who was in a mental institution from August to October catch up in school work (in that school started in the end of August) and find a mechanism to keep herself calm when she starts getting mentally unstable. It might be breathing slowly, looking at a comic or whatever works for her and, then, telling her teachers that it is okay for her to do the activity to calm herself down when needed. Then you practice it with her every single week to reinforce the calming mechanism being influential.

You also have to intervene with a parent that gives her child prescription sleeping pills so he won’t hear her being a prostitute at night so as to make an income since she can’t find a “regular” job. Yet the drugs make him sleep during class in the school. He’s just too drowsy.

You also have to discern whether a child injured herself to get attention or whether a parent did it to her, as she claimed had happpened. How hard is that to deduce? And it is touchy to address the situation with the parents as they can get furious with you.

Yet the worse sort of incident with one has to deal is perhaps this sort:

A soldier in training, at age twenty-one, is sent far away from home in the USA. He is lonely and goes out at night to a bar to meet people. He meets one woman and hooks up with her a few times.

He is then sent to war in the Middle East and learns from a letter that the woman with whom he hooked up is pregnant with his child. She subsequently has it.

He, upon being back in the USA, is no longer involved in the military and has a tough time finding work. Yet he sends money when he can to help with his daughter many thousands of miles away.

Then he gets a call from social services eight years later asking about whether he wanted to take his daughter, whom he’d never met, or should she be put in foster care. The reason is that the mother of his child had slept her in the bathtub every night in their one bedroom apartment and the mother was a drug addict, who had sold her daughter and herself for sex since the child was four years old in order to pay for her drugs.

So he takes his daughter even though he is dirt-poor. Then as a guidance counselor, you have to counsel him and his daughter, arrange for intensive psychiatric counseling and other interventions for the child through the state, and try to figure out whatever else that you can do to be helpful in this terrible situation.

Certainly, I have many heroes and sheroes, but above are just a few of them – a few types. And the only reason that I know so much about the guidance counseling issues is that my relative is involved and I was asked to help figure out ways to best go forward in each of the cases since I have a strong educational and social service background.

It is totally professional in gist as I didn’t learn anyone’s identity, nor certain particulars. Each case was presented hypothetically. So there were no ethical, nor professional violations.

So I appreciate being trusted enough to be involved in finding solutions since workers who try their best to bring their best efforts to their jobs, in volunteer social service work, in emergencies when you are saving another person’s life and/or in volunteer environmentalism are the real heroes and sheroes across the whole wide world and not just in the USA. So I, frankly, love helping wherever and whenever I realistically can since this orientation is the best one to have in my view!

Sally Dugman is a writer in MA, USA.


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