National First Responders day honors law enforcement, firefighters, paramedics and other emergency responders.
"Having a day where somebody says thank you, it's nice," said Chief John Staley of the Lockwood Fire District on Wednesday. "That warm feeling of being appreciated, and that, more than anything, tells us that you matter. Although we know it, once in a while it's nice to hear it. And having a day in your name and in your honor says that to us."
Staley said COVID-19 has changed how firefighters and paramedics respond.
"Now we're wearing masks on every call, putting masks on our patients," he said. "You don't think of it as environment, but that's what COVID has created for us now, an infectious environment, one that we're always conscious of. But in this case, with far-reaching consequences both to the people who serve every day and the people we do serve."
The COVID protocols help everyone at an emergency scene.
"We want to protect citizens first," Staley said. "Anything we can find to protect our first responders, we want to keep them safe, because as I said before, because without them, there's no front line of defense."
The chief says the citizens appreciate the skills of the emergency responders.
"You know the beauty of it is, you can hear it a million times, people call us on their worst day," Staley said. "What I've discovered about the citizens, when they dial 911, they really expect someone to come. Best part of the day is when someone says 'I appreciate what you do' or 'thanks for being there' or 'you helped me.' Not looking for big paycheck. Our paycheck is when somebody says that they appreciate or acknowledge the fact that what you're doing is difficult and they're happy you came."
Starting in 2017, a congressional resolution designated Oct. 28 National First Responders Day