Something greater than myself <3

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Safety Officer Eric Thorsell (also my dad) and Assistant Chief Rob Amick present me with the 2017 EMS Member of the Year Award at our annual banquet in January.

As some of you may know (and some of you may not know), I am a firefighter and EMT with Citizens Fire Company – a volunteer fire station located in my hometown of Charles Town. A couple weeks ago, I was recognized as the 2017 EMS Member of the Year. I was not expecting this, nor did I think I was deserving. Last January, I enrolled in an EMT course and through the six month process I struggled with balancing my role as a teacher, my community commitments and the time needed to study and prepare for this course. I wasn’t even sure if I was going to succeed, but in July I passed my exam and became a Nationally Registered Emergency Medical Technician (just because everyone loves titles). I then began the process of becoming a cleared provider in the county – a process I am still going through because of time and other commitments.

So why did I decide to become a volunteer firefighter and EMT? This answer is simple, but yet so complex. My dad was a career firefighter with Fairfax County for almost 30 years and also volunteered at a local station within our county. When I was younger, I idolized my dad. I wanted to be just like him. I loved visiting the fire station and hanging out with everyone. I loved pretending I was driving the fire trucks and even had my own fire coat and hat. Often times, my dad would take me straight out of the bath tub and we would go to volunteer calls together. I would stand in the bed of the truck with his pager, pretending I was talking to all of the firefighters and they would always come over to talk to me when all of their work was done. I never really understood the danger of his job when I was younger. He would tell me goodbye and that he loved me every morning before he left for work, but I never thought about what if he didn’t come home?

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I understood the danger as I got older and while I still loved the gatherings at the fire station, my mind and focus shifted to other things and different careers. In 2010, my dad retired from Fairfax County during my senior year of undergrad. It was a difficult decision for him to make, but he felt it was the right time. We celebrated his service and our life continued to move on. But something felt like it was missing. He would always deny it, but I think deep down he missed the camaraderie,  the brother and sisterhood, the excitement that came with being a first responder.

It was about four years ago that my mom and I filled out an application for my dad to join Citizens Fire Company. (He was still in denial so we did it anyway). My dad became a member and currently serves as the company Safety Officer, but being back around the station led to me gaining interest in the fire service again. I originally joined as an administrative member, but I wanted to do more. I wanted to help more people. I wanted to give back to my community that had given so much to me. I took a class and completed training to drive the ambulance and then I enrolled in a firefighter class – something I never thought I had enough courage or fortitude to do. But I did it and I loved it. I took more specialty classes and then the opportunity came for me to take EMT class and that leads to where I am today and my original question of why?

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My mom and dad at my Live Burn for my Firefighter I class, which happened to be on my dad’s birthday!

For me, serving others has always been a part of me. From those early days hanging out with my dad, to my involvement in 4-H and FFA growing up, it was a part of who I was. I didn’t realize it when I was younger, but looking back, being around that environment of family, sacrifice… just pure love for others shaped me into the person I am today. Many people may not see the direct correlation to how this helped me become a teacher, but I do. I became a teacher because I want to help students see their potential  regardless of their background or situation. I became a teacher because we all have bad days, but the real lesson is in how we respond. I became a teacher because I want to create the servant leaders of tomorrow. I became a teacher because I love my students and I want them to know that they always have someone supporting them. I became a teacher because I want my students to feel like they belong, they have a “home” and a purpose for their lives. I became a teacher, a firefighter, an EMT… heck I am here on this Earth because I want to be a part of something much greater than myself.

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