What if your 911 call went unanswered?
What if there was no one to protect you should a burglar invade your home, to help you escape from the upstairs of a burning building, to administer first aid to your injuries following a traffic accident?
Contemplate that for a second, and if it doesn’t scare you, it should.
In Robeson County, there are hundreds, perhaps thousands, of first responders — police, deputies, paramedics and firefighter who answer distress calls every day, some for not enough pay, and some for no pay at all. They leave the comfort and security of their own homes — and their own families — at all hours of the day for the uncertainty of what awaits, oftentimes putting their lives squarely in harm’s way.
Most of the time, the calls, while hardly routine, are routinely handled. Then there is the rare case such as occurred on Sunday night in Robeson County.
Samuel Butler, a 52-year-old who has been fighting fires for two decades, the chief of the Evans Crossroads Volunteer Fire Department, and the president of the Robeson County Firemen’s Association, didn’t return home. While responding to a traffic accident on Interstate 74, Butler was killed when his vehicle was struck by a tractor-trailer.
It’s unclear exactly what happened, but it appears Butler, while trying to make a U-turn to more quickly reach the accident, simply didn’t see the approaching tractor-trailer. In an instant, he was gone, and this county was a poorer — and less safe — place.
Butler leaves behind a wife, three children, and three grandchildren. Firefighting gets in the blood, so it’s not a surprise that two of his sons are volunteers at the Evans Crossroads Department.
It shouldn’t take a tragedy such as the one that occurred Sunday for the rest of us to pause and consider how fortunate we are to have people ready to jeopardize their own safety in favor of ours. But such an event should not pass without that consideration.
First responders are a rare breed, content to do their work behind the scenes, without recognition, and often without even a thank you. So thank you to Samuel Butler — and all the others who answer that call for help.