While many people scrambled to escape through the Holland Tunnel from Manhattan to Hoboken after the 9/11 attacks, a few students and their teacher from Hoboken High School traveled to Ground Zero to help.
Hoboken, NJ, is about five miles away from the where the World Trade Center Towers stood. This commuter town for many who work in Manhattan had more than 50 residents perish in the 9/11 tragedy.
When they reached Ground Zero, the students and teacher from Hoboken High School learned that they couldn't help because they did not have the proper training. Instead of giving up, however, the group decided to get trained so they could help those in need in the future.
An Emergency Response Team is Born
The tragedy of 9/11 inspired the Hoboken High School's Emergency Response Team. With help from a Learn and Serve America grant, the group was able to provide training to students to eventually become Emergency Medical Technicians.
Melanie Alberto-Kolmer, a Hoboken High School teacher and director of school's Emergency Response Team, explained how the program works.
“Students who are 16 and over are eligible to become EMTs and take the Emergency Response class,” said Alberto-Kolmer. “There must always be someone 18 and over in the ambulance when going out for an emergency dispatch. For the first few months, we go step-by-step, teaching basic first aid and CPR. As the year progresses, the students prepare for the state-administered EMT exam, which must be taken by anyone who wants to be certified as a paramedic.”
The school's emergency response program is unique; it's the only program of its kind in New Jersey and one of a few nationwide.
Once they've been certified, the students are assigned to one day a week to be on call. They are responsible for completing all the routine duties assigned to a professional EMT.
“If there is an emergency in the middle of class, the students are expected to respond. Their teachers know what's happening if they have to run out of class and they are pretty understanding,” said Alberto-Kolmer. “However, all the students are expected to keep up with their school work or they won't be able to be part of the Emergency Response Team. It gives them an incentive to do their homework every day.”
The program has been enlightening for many of the students who didn't know what they wanted to do after high school. One such student, 23-year-old Josh Otero, said, “It totally made me realize my love for helping others. All the people I met along the way – other EMTs and medical professional – inspired me to continue down the path of becoming a professional paramedic. The Emergency Response Team was very beneficial to me and I am grateful that I got to participate in such a life-changing the program.”
Otero is now enrolled in nursing school.
“Once they realize they have someone's life in their hands, they become a better student and their overall perspective is totally changed.” said Alberto-Kolmer. “It's really truly remarkable to see.”