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Everyday heroes: The State Patrol awards

Feb. 13, 2017
Photo of awards at the State Patrol's annual ceremony.
Photo: Awards at the Minnesota State Patrol's annual ceremony.
If you’ve ever been in a car crash, you know how scary they are. And sometimes they’re bad enough that you can’t get yourself to safety. Imagine, for example, being the passenger of a crashed car that had just started on fire. You look over to the driver and realize he’s pinned in his seat. You can’t get out to save yourself, much less him. So imagine your relief when a random citizen comes along and breaks your window to pull you to safety. And when another citizen comes along to assist the first responders in keeping the driver cool and the flames at bay until the Jaws of Life arrive.
This isn’t the stuff of movies or television drama. It happened last August in Rice County. And those citizens, along with the first responders they helped, were honored for putting their lives on the line (including suffering smoke inhalation) at the annual State Patrol Awards Ceremony, which took place last week.

When you read the descriptions of the incidents​ that earned these brave and selfless people their awards, you realize two things: first, that to be a first responder of any stripe is to put others’ safety ahead of your own; and second, that ordinary, everyday people can do extraordinarily heroic things in emergencies.

Take, for example, the tractor-trailer driver whose trailer was hit by a passenger vehicle, which started on fire. He called 911, then grabbed his fire extinguisher to put the fire out, staying on the phone with the dispatcher for 10 minutes. He worked to calm the three badly injured people in the vehicle and stayed with them until first responders arrived—and he saved their lives.

Or the sheriff’s deputy who used his own patrol car to push one vehicle in a head-on crash away from the other, which had started on fire. In doing so, he saved the life of the driver, who was trapped in the vehicle, keeping him safe until the Jaws of Life could extract him.

No one wants crashes or medical emergencies to happen on the roads of Minnesota. But they do – and we’re very lucky to have such outstanding law enforcement, emergency medical personnel, and citizens to help us when they happen. We can never repay them for their selfless actions, but the annual State Patrol Awards go a long way toward letting them know how much we appreciate them.​​​​​​​​​​​​ ​​​