City first response team members spent Tuesday morning away from their offices and introducing themselves and their jobs to children at Hattie Halstead Elementary School this week.
“You couldn’t ask for a more beautiful day to come out and get away from the computers and televisions, especially on 9/11,” said Sgt. Kevin Keller with the Copperas Cove Police Department.
As part of the school’s yearly First Responders Day event, police officers, firefighters and paramedics gathered to introduce themselves, explain their jobs and give students a brief tour of their vehicles.
While three kindergarten classes lined up outside the gym, the officers and firefighters shared a high five with each student.
“Easy, don’t break Officer Kevin’s hand,” Keller playfully chided the students, before welcoming them and asking them what police officers do.
The responding chorus of “you give people tickets” was not the correct answer.
Keller described the functions of various tools on his tool belt and explained how they help an officer protect him or herself as well as the community.
Lt. Walter Munsel of the fire department followed, explaining a firefighter’s equipment and how it helps them when entering or navigating a structure, including the dual-layered pants and jacket, boots, helmet and breathing mask.
Paramedic Heather Frink wrapped up the discussion by explaining how an ambulance “is like a rolling emergency room.”
“We have almost everything in here an emergency room has,” she said.
Students toured the ambulance along with a police cruiser and fire engine.
Heavy and large pieces of equipment on the fire engine, such as the jaws of life and various saws, drew “wow”s from the classes, but for kindergartner Nya Livingston, the ambulance was the most interesting vehicle.
“It had cool stuff,” the 5-year-old said. “I like the thing you lay on, because you get to lay down,” she said, referring to the vehicle’s stretcher.
Parent liaison Michelle Brooks said hosting First Responders Day was both to educate children and recognize heroes.
“They don’t always get a good perception of police,” she said. “And it’s also to honor local heroes. It gives children an opportunity to get out and meet the police and firefighters and talk to them one-on-one.”
Children in classes from kindergarten through second grade were treated to the chance to go outside and visit with local first responders.
“The point is to reiterate safety,” Frink said. “We tell them what everything does, and explain what we have and how it can help if you’re hurt.”
The educational experience for the children was only matched in value by the chance to speak to young children.
“I’ll tell you my three favorite things about being a police officer,” Keller told the kindergartners. “My first favorite thing is talking to boys and girls like you. My second favorite thing is getting to drive this really cool Batman car. And the third thing is working with firefighters. They’re really cool people.”