Courage and the NYPD (Part 2 of 2)

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New York City Police Chief Raymond Kelly and the five members of the helicopter crew who were honored at Police Headquarters in New York, Tuesday, Feb. 22, 2011. From left are Kelly Police Officer Browning, Detective Sileo, Detective Almeida, Detective Condon, and Detective Stevens.

They rescued the two cadets. One of the paramedics got out of the helicopter with a “horse collar”. That device wraps around one’s chest and one doesn’t have to hold on. The medics used that method instead of easier, less dangerous ones, because they thought the two cadets were too weak from hypothermia to hold onto anything.

The helo was about 80 feet above the cadets. So the paramedic who got out of the perfectly good helicopter at six hundred feet off the ground, got lowered by the helo crew to the small ledge where the cadets had tied themselves. He fastened the “horse collar” about one of the cadets. The helo lifted that cadet off, reeled him in, and flew away. Not far. To the West Point parade ground where they landed momentarily to hand him over to an emergency medical team. Then the helo went back for the other two. They lifted the second cadet off with a “horse collar”. Then dropped it to the medic and reeled him in.

You can read the details of the rescue here.

Did these men experience fear? Of course. I don’t know them but fear is a normal human reaction to a dangerous situation. Fear is one of our ancient survival mechanisms. When we feel it, our body automatically prepares us to fight or flee. Our pulse rate leaps and our blood pressure goes up to force blood to our brain, limbs, muscles.

When we feel fear, most blood vessels in our body constrict. But those that carry blood to our muscles dilate and take the extra blood. Why? Because our body automatically dumps fat and glucose into the blood stream to provide extra power to our muscles and the extra blood delivers it. We start taking in more oxygen. Our eyes dilate so we can see better. Our senses become more attuned. And our survival instinct tells us to get the hell out of that situation.

This is when courage comes to the fore. Only a fool is fearless. Courage isn’t the absence of fear. It’s acting in spite of one’s fear. Are these men well trained? Yes. Experienced? Yes. But that isn’t enough. Do these men have courage? You’re damn right they do.

If I asked each of these men if he were a hero, I imagine his answer would be, “I was just doing my job.” We often think only of heroes as being courageous men and women on a battlefield far away. Yet we have plenty of heroes right here at home. These five men are testimony to that.

There names are:

Officer Steven Browning, pilot
Detective Fernando Almeida
Detective Christopher Condon
Detective Michael Sileo
Detective William Stevens

West Point should give each of these men a medal. Or a new car. Or something.

[Image courtesy of IndyStar.com.]

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Charles McCain

Charles McCain is a Washington DC based freelance journalist and novelist. He is the author of "An Honorable German," a World War Two naval epic. You can read more of his work on his website: http://charlesmccain.com/

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