STORIES OF COURAGE & BRAVERY IN ALASKA'S RUGGED COPPER RIVER VALLEY

Copper Valley Alaska EMT's. If You Didn't Help, Who Would?

EMT's In The Copper River Valley: Above & Beyond The Call Of Duty

Copper River EMT's in 2014, including Bill Bowler (left) who was an EMT
back in 1991, too. 


In a place like the Copper River Valley, helping people was a way of life. The obligation of stepping up to the plate was taken very seriously.

Take for example, emergency medical assistance. In 1991, Dozens of volunteers took courses spanning weeks in order to learn how to help their own famlies and their neighbors. 

A May, 1991 list was printed in the Copper River Country Journal, and revealed the extent to which locals were willing to put themselves on the line. 

Copper Center: Pinky Becker, Tom Carew, Bob Olson, Margie Steigerwald, Chuck Thomas.
Gakona: Danese Devenport, Suzanne McCarthy, Fran McMahan.
Glennallen: Cherie Ansell, Rocky Ansell, Bill Bowler, Terry Cunitz, Dan Hoadley, Patty Hutchings, Milt Peters, Sarah Rush, Larry Scribner, Win Stieffel, Tom Symmes, Mike Thomas, Darlene Windsor.
Kenny Lake: Rick Ackerman, Janelle Eklund, Jim Fant, Mollie Flack, Craig Gardner, Terry Gilmore, Mike Huntley,  Jim Jordan, Curt Lain, Sharon Lain, Janet Luce, Earl McClanahan, Crystal Pwoning, Daryl Schierholt.
Chitina: Catherine Fletcher, John Gilbert, Art Koeninger, Darlene Wright.
Nelchina: 
Cheryl Holland, Jim Manning, Elaine Manning, Jim Odden, Mary Odden, Kahren Rudbeck, Lisa Smayda. Tom Smayda, Joe Virgin, Peg Virgin.
Paxson: Gary Alcott, Stan Brown, Wanda Brown, Nate Callis, Wndy Callis, Larry Gondek, Hannah Hays, Bob Hays, Kris Howk, Murray Howk.
Slana: John Beeter, Marilee Bibeau, Jim Hummel, Mary Hummel.

This list may not mean much to you, the reader -- but, to residents of the region, it was a list of their neighbors. Men and women. Ordinary people: ordinary neighbors; teachers, grocers, gardeners, store owners, nurses....over 60 people, who intuitively understood it was important for them to be available in every portion of a far-flung community, to be at the ready. 

These were people who would never be "recognized" for their willingness to take time from their home-building, their families and their work.  There was no pay. No honor. No status. No financial reimbursement. But, each of them -- just to be trained as EMT's -- had to leave their homes on evenings and weekends,. They had to contemplate the possible problems they and their family might find themselves faced with -- such as drownings, frostbite, fire, car accidents, heart attacks, and exactly what they had to learn what they, personally, would have to do in each circumstance.

Then, after they successfully passed training tests, they basically offered themselves up on the front lines. When anything happened, they had to be ready to drive dozens of miles, to a neighbor's burning home. Or rush to a mangled car crash 30 miles from Glennallen. Or arrive at the site of a grizzly suicide -- of somebody they knew --  in a cabin up the road. Not every local EMT had what is known as the "first responder personality" -- that confident, efficient air that self-selected paid professionals have. A paid emergency fireman or ambulance drivers  in a large city somewhere, is drawn from a pool of millions -- and, if the work doesn't suit him (or her) they can move on to something else.

But in an all-volunteer corps of Copper River people, where one out of every 50 people (and that's counting men, women and children) were volunteers and underwent the arduous training as an EMT, there was no EMT personality  These people's personalities were a mixed bag -- with many ordinary moms mixed in -- women who lived out along the roads who were motivated by a desire to be able to keep their children alive, on their own, if necessary.

Their job -- if this could be considered a job -- was to arrive at their neighbors' homes  or car crashes, or at personal tragedies -- well before the Troopers showed up. 

It was a  commitment that involved a full understanding of the precariousness of life in general -- and Copper River life in particular. 

In the Copper River Valley, there was nobody else. If you didn't do it -- who would? 

Copyrighted by Copper River Country Journal, 1991-2017. All rights reserved. 

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Write us at ncountry@gci.net! Bearfoot Travel Magazines/Copper River Country Journal, Gakona, Alaska

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