Yesterday, Anne got to be a first responder. She had Presidents Day off, but I had to go to work. Another night of freezing rain had glazed all of the exterior surfaces, making even getting to the car a challenge. After I had left and still in her pajamas, she got a call. Art, our next door neighbor was calling. He had slipped on his front steps, hit the back of his head and was bleeding profusely.
Before Saint Louis organized and paid its firefighters, men from all walks of life served as volunteers in neighborhood fire-fighting companies. These men donated countless hours to vigorously training and meetings. They also abandoned their own work and leisure activities when the fire bells sounded. The job required strength, bravery and teamwork.
Caroline and the kids were still on their farm in Illinois. Art had come back early for a Monday morning meeting. Initially, because Anne hadn’t recognized the number, she wasn’t going to pickup, but then she did. It’s a good thing that she did, because Art’s next call would have been to 911.
In operation from the 1820s until their disbandment in 1859, new companies formed as Saint Louis’s population increased. The volunteer companies were competitive in many ways, sometimes to the detriment of successfully fighting a fire. There was often competition to be the first to secure the closest and often limited water source.
Anne threw on some clothes and then gingerly rushed to the rescue, not wanting to have to split an ambulance fare. Art had hit the back of his head and there was a pool of blood on the ground, but the bleeding had pretty much stopped by then. She helped him back into his house and then helped him clean his wound.
But they did come together to improve the city. Understanding the danger of the city’s poor water supply and dark, narrow streets, they pushed for change. Their advocacy led to the development of a municipal water system and improvements for city streets, including installing gas street lamps.
She had grabbed a magnet off the fridge that listed a nearby urgent care center. She drove Art over to the University Club Tower that tall building next to Galleria. Unfortunately, the urgent care center was now a nail salon. She tried calling the urgent care center number on the magnet and again got the nail salon. Then she tried Yelp. Art got a CT-scan and a few staples.
This hand pumper engine, built in 1836 by Philadelphian John Agnew, belonged to Central Fire Company No. 1. Several veterans found it in 1889 in Mount Olive, Illinois, the last place it was used. The Veteran Volunteer Firemen’s Historical Society brought it back to Saint Louis and restored it.
It warmed up in the afternoon and for the first time in memory got above freezing, significantly so. This led to some crazy talk on Anne’s part about putting away her big red winter coat, but I talked her off the ledge. I’m really proud of Anne. I’m proud of her response to this emergency. Art and Caroline are great neighbors and we wouldn’t want to lose them.