There are people who deal with the unthinkable on a regular basis, and they do it without hesitation.
Tuesday was a day for those who protect and care for our citizens to show up in force — multiple times.
When the afternoon call for help went out concerning a school bus accident by Pagosa Springs Middle School, Pagosa’s heroes showed up in a big way.
School staff and administration were first on the scene and sprang into action calling for help and attending to the incident and student’s needs.
The Archuleta County Combined Dispatch Center (ACCDC) adeptly broadcast the call to the community’s first responders.
Heroes from Pagosa Springs Police Department, Pagosa Fire Protection District, Archuleta County Sheriff’s Office, Colorado State Patrol and Pagosa Springs Medical Center EMS responded to the scene.
Before that scene had been completely cleared, an ACCDC dispatcher alerted responders to another tragedy that was unfolding south of town at Echo Lake, a missing person in the water.
Some of our first responders didn’t even have a moment of rest after the bus incident before answering the call for assistance at the lake.
While efforts to find the man missing in the lake were ongoing, another medical emergency was paged out by a dispatcher who never missed a beat. This time, it was one of ACCDC’s own who first responders were paged out to help. With her partner down, the dispatcher who was still standing never missed a cue and aptly held down the dispatch center in the face of tremendous stress and chaos. Thankfully, the outcome of that emergency call had a much more positive ending than the other two emergency calls Tuesday afternoon.
Amazingly, there was no hesitation for these heroes in tirelessly responding to call after call after call for help.
A hero in her own light, school bus driver Beverly Flaming lost her life on Tuesday.
Flaming safely delivered countless children to their destinations over the years that she worked as a bus driver for Archuleta School District.
She was an integral part of transportation department and will be greatly missed.
“Decades of service and tens of thousands of miles... I know she was driving me to kindergarten and high school volleyball games as a kid and I’m 43,” wrote Melissa Moeller on a social media post Tuesday evening. “So sad - thank you Bev for all of your years of service to this community. Thinking of her family.”
Our hearts also go out to Flaming’s family, school district staff and students in the wake of this tragedy
Parents were called to pick up students from multiple bus routes. We cannot fathom what ran through their minds when they received notification from the school district.
We hold great concern for the students who witnessed this tragedy unfolding. Some were sitting on the school buses involved in the incident. Others were loading, unloading or just in the vicinity. The school district has lined up counseling for students and staff who will undoubtedly need tremendous support in the coming days, weeks and years.
It’s not every day that a school district staff has to switch modes and become first responders in such a tragedy, but staff and administration seamlessly filled the role they were handed on Tuesday.
By the end of the series of incidents, the Archuleta County coroner had also come to play a role in the list of responders on Tuesday.
Details were still unfolding regarding the lake incident at the time of this writing. Our hearts go out to that person’s family and loved ones as well.
To compound matters, Tuesday’s emergency calls played out amid yet another crippling telecommunications issue in Archuleta County. Most regional services were severely downgraded when contractors in downtown Durango cut a major uplink fiber for the region.
According to Archuleta County broadband manager Eric Hittle, “It’s really similar to the fiber cut from April 27th in its effect. All Pagosa traffic is being shoved through a 1.5Gbps Microwave link, this time within Durango, instead of from Durango to Pagosa. Working, but degraded on the overloaded link, until the fiber is fixed.”
First responders deal with difficult situations every day.
Those who respond to life-threatening incidents and tragedies without ever hesitating and those who perform the meaningful work of delivering our children safely to school are true heroes.
To all of our first responders, we offer a simple yet heartfelt thank you for a job well done — not just Tuesday, but every day.
Terri Lynn Oldham House