Our View: Thanks to the dispatchers, first responders, even the grocery store cashiers | TheUnion.com

Our View: Thanks to the dispatchers, first responders, even the grocery store cashiers

The grocery store cashier didn’t expect to be on the front lines.

Wearing a face mask and gloves while dealing with hundreds of people a day during a statewide shelter-in-place order, cashiers find themselves in an unlikely position. They’re necessary, essential and more valued than ever.

They’re not doctors or nurses, battling the coronavirus in hospitals and surrounded by sickness. They’re not firefighters, who respond to more medical calls than house fires.

But there they are, all the same, standing in a position of heightened risk with each debit card swipe.

Today is the last day of National Public Safety Telecommunicators Week. It happens the second week of April each year, and provides a chance for people to thank those who serve the public — namely, dispatchers.

Not to take away from the essential service dispatchers provide, but we thought that this would be a good time to expand the thanks to all first responders and those who serve in public safety. The firefighters, police officers, doctors, nurses and anyone risking their own safety for the rest of us.

And that includes the person behind the register, who didn’t ask to be here.

There’s also the fast food worker, standing outside in the drive-thru taking people’s orders. Or the delivery driver unloading another batch of toilet paper. Veterinarians are still working, and the dentist will be there in an emergency.

These are all people who take precautions because of COVID-19, for their and our safety. Law enforcement doesn’t always have that luxury. They’re stopping people for driving recklessly and arresting people who likely aren’t wearing a mask. Officers don’t get to social distance when they handcuff someone.

Likewise, firefighters — who respond to plenty of medical calls — are coming into contact with the most vulnerable members of our community. The sick, infirm and possibly those who have contracted the coronavirus.

And sitting at the center of law enforcement and fire response are dispatchers. These men and women sit at computers for what can be interminable hours, fielding calls ranging from the mundane to murder. Hidden away, often securely, dispatchers don’t get the same recognition as first responders.

That might be why there’s a whole week dedicated to them.

First responders regularly get the limelight, as they should. They’re the ones facing gun-wielding suspects and walking into burning buildings.

That doesn’t take away from the vital role dispatchers play. They field innumerable calls, make lightning quick decisions and ensure the necessary responders are in contact with each other. Their hours aren’t easy and neither is the work.

That’s why we want to take this space to say: “Thank you.”

Thanks to the firefighter who’s helping carry a stretcher from the house to the ambulance. There’s likely more of these to come.

Thanks to the police officer responding to multiple calls of mail theft. The coronavirus has changed much, but some things never change. We still need officers on the ground responding to all kinds of calls, big and small.

Thanks to the doctors and nurses working long hours, sometimes with inadequate personal protection. They didn’t ask for a pandemic, and they’ve stepped up to the challenge.

And thanks to the grocery store cashier who’s standing behind a thin piece of plexiglass while touching grimy dollars. They’re wiping their hands raw with the amount of hand sanitizer they use. The least we can do is wear a mask ourselves to help keep them that much safer.

One day soon, when the plexiglass comes down and we’re standing there in person, we’ll say “thanks” in person.

And we’ll extend our hand in thanks, too.

The weekly Our View editorial represents the consensus opinion of The Union Editorial Board, a group of editors and writers from The Union, as well as informed community members. Contact the board at EditBoard@TheUnion.com.

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