Hardly enough praise

Published 1:38 pm Saturday, April 20, 2013

We spend a considerable amount of time and space on this page thanking and praising Suffolk’s public safety volunteers and professionals — police, firefighters, rescue workers and dispatchers — for the hard work, selfless commitment and brave determination with which they approach jobs that most of us could never imagine doing.

Days like Thursday remind us why.

As all of the Boston area and much of America watched on television and via social and traditional media beginning late Wednesday night and lasting through early Thursday evening, a deadly drama played out in Massachusetts between the alleged perpetrators of the Boston Marathon bombing and the local, state and federal officials who were hunting them down.

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Just two days after the deadly and cowardly bombing that had left three dead and more than 150 injured, police announced on Wednesday they had two suspects in the case. Just hours after that announcement, those two suspects began a rampage that would leave one 26-year-old police officer dead in a close-range shooting and others wounded in a chase and gunfight that involved semi-automatic weapons and improvised explosive devices and finally resulted in the death of one of the suspects and the injury and temporary escape of the other.

As Thursday dawned on Boston, the people of that city and nearby Watertown were instructed to stay inside and allow police to conduct the dangerous sweep that early Thursday evening finally resulted in the capture of the second bombing suspect, who was found injured and hiding in a boat on a trailer parked in a driveway in Watertown.

The arrest concluded a tense day for Boston and its suburbs. But the tension experienced by those citizens must have paled next to the stress felt by SWAT team members and other police officers given the dangerous task of finding a man alleged to have killed or maimed scores of people within the past week and whose brother so recently had fought police to his own bitter death. Every knock on every door could have been the precursor to another deadly firefight.

By the grace of God, Suffolk’s public safety volunteers and professionals have never had to face such grim and dangerous tasks as their brothers and sisters in Massachusetts did this week. Nonetheless, as they learned in the brutal attack of one of their own, Officer James Winslow, last year, the dangers they face are still real, and the injuries they treat are still life threatening.

Winslow was awarded the Gold Medal of Valor and Ultimate Sacrifice Award by the Chamber of Commerce this week for his heroic actions during the attack that left him near death last May. During the same event, Suffolk Fire and Rescue’s Capt. William Kessinger, firefighter/medic Colt Pulley, firefighter/medic Terry Davenport, Lt. Taz Lancaster, firefighter Chris Asbell and firefighter David Dickens were awarded Lifesaving awards for saving a 69-year-old woman from her burning home in December.

We spend a lot of time and space here thanking Suffolk’s public safety officials for what they do. Some days, though, it hardly seems enough.