Damar Hamlin as a man, when looking at his life, presents an inspiring story on most every level.
Justin McIntire, as a man, by all accounts, is himself, an inspiration.
You know who Damar Hamlin is. He is a 24-year-old professional football player who suffered cardiac arrest on January 2, 2023, while doing his job, which is playing Safety for the Buffalo Bills. On a nationally televised Monday Night Football game Damar made a tackle, stood up, then fell unconscious to the ground, without a heartbeat.
For virtually all the world to see.
He is recovering. Recently released from the hospital as a matter of fact.
You most likely do not recognize the name, Justin McIntire. Less than 1/10th of one percent of the people who now recognize the name Damar Hamlin don’t know a thing about Justin. So, let’s enlighten. Justin is—or was—the Chief of Police for Brackenridge, PA. On the very same day that Damar Hamlin dropped to the turf, January 2, 2023, Justin McIntire fell for the very last time.
Few were witness to the event.
He didn’t recover. His body was released to the coroner.
He was murdered. Shot and killed while doing what he did every day, protecting his community. He was 46 years old.
A Personal Perspective
Before we go any further and in hopes of being perfectly clear and avoiding, as best I can, angst- ridden and angry emails concerning my lack of empathy for Damar Hamlin:
On that Monday night my wife and I were watching a show about people who kill on Netflix. After two of them I said to her, “How about something a little less depressing?” She agreed and I turned on the football game as I was literally walking into the kitchen.
As I opened the fridge, I heard my wife say, “Uh-oh, something happened. The whole stadium is quiet and both teams are on the field.”
I walked back into the living room and observed the solemn scene.
“Yeah, and there’s an ambulance in the middle of the field,” I added unnecessarily.
As we listened to the announcers stumbling for the correct words, my wife went on the internet and found the play in question. We watched as Damar Hamlin dropped. We watched it several times hoping to see the moment that caused the collapse, but nothing out of the ordinary jumped out at us. Nothing that would cause a heart to stop. At least not to our untrained eyes.
“They’re doing CPR” is what I remember some TV person saying.
The silence was deafening.
The cameras scanned the stands as well as the players. People were seen with their hands on their heads, over their mouths, praying, crying.
There is now an iconic shot of the Bill’s quarterback, Josh Allen, eyes wide, tears welling, hands over his mouth. His fear and pain palpable.
Who could not feel that agony and empathize with what everyone in that stadium was feeling.
My wife and I literally said a prayer for Damar.
Then there was talk about continuing the game.
I said out loud, and to myself, “No way can this continue.”
There were myriad reasons but one that went through my head as a boss was that I’d need to be with my guy. I’m going to the hospital with him and his family. He’s my responsibility. I can’t coach a game with one of my young men on the precipice of death. Screw the game!
A Societal Juxtaposition
As Damar lay motionless my wife and I wondered if his family was there, in the stands. We talked about whether they would get into the ambulance, who would go with him, what were his odds of recovery knowing CPR was part of the medical equation?
The whole world was looking on, having these very same conversations and asking the same questions.
Damar’s mother was, reports indicate, at the game that night. Imagine her terror.
During those moments, thoughts, prayers, tears and hopes were, rightfully so, with this young man.
The announcers wondered aloud about whether the game would resume.
On that same afternoon Chief McIntire’s family was not with him when he went down.
The entire world did not stop.
Millions of people were not stunned, crying, praying.
There was no talk of the police department shutting down that night.
The devastation to those officers and medics on the scene mattered not. They had a job to do, and they had to do it. They had to try and save Justin, as well as another officer who was also shot. (Shot in the leg, he recovered.)
The man who murdered Justin, who’s name I will not mention, had warrants out for his arrest. He fled Pennsylvania Troopers, escaped, was seen again, again pursued, again eluded. This went on over a period of two days through several jurisdictions. Eventually the man was spotted by Chief McIntire and during the pursuit this cretin fired the deadly shot.
The Chief went down.
But there was no time for pause, counseling, conversation or grieving about the horrific violence and loss of a brother the officers and medics came across that day.
The murderous man was continuing his rampage, invading a home, threatening death on citizens, demanding keys to a vehicle and fleeing yet again.
Eventually he was stopped. Shot and killed as he fired on yet more police officers and endangering the public.
Damar Hamlin, thank God, is recovering. He actually watched Buffalo play and beat the New England Patriot’s on Sunday night January 9, six days after he lay motionless without a heartbeat. Pictures were released showing his family seated around his hospital bed. The game was dedicated to him.
January 9, 2023 was the day before Justin McIntire’s wake.
Justin is leaving a shattered wife, four children, parents, nieces, nephews and countless friends. Each experiencing immeasurable grieving and heartache.
Millions were thinking about Damar Hamlin during the Sunday Night game. People wore #3 jerseys. Held up signs. Tony Romo spoke about the emotional toll the event took on players noting that a few days before the Sunday Night game he didn’t think the players would be able to pull themselves together enough to take the field.
In contrast, according to a story posted by CBS Pittsburgh, “The Borough of Brackenridge remains heartbroken over the death of its police chief. On Thursday night, the community came together to remember his life and the impact he left behind at a candlelit vigil in Brackenridge Park. Hundreds of people from the community and beyond sang and prayed for Brackenridge Police Chief Justin McIntire…”
Last year, Damar Hamlin, to his incredible credit, as a rookie NFL player, started a fund to raise money for Christmas presents for underprivileged children. The goal? $2,500.00.
After he went down, people who watched or heard about the event, decided they needed to be involved with this young man and in a week the fund now has over $8 million in donations.
After Chief Justin McIntire was murdered someone started a fake GoFundMe page under his name.
On January 9, Damar Hamlin announced plans to raise funds to benefit first responders and the University of Cincinnati Medical Center, recognizing those who saved his life. (https://didwewin.shop/)
Again, what a remarkable young man, a tribute to his parents who raised him. An incredible success story in its own right.
First Responders: Their Heroics, their Humanity, My Daughter
Brackenridge Mayor Lindsay Fraser said of Justin McIntire, “He dedicated his life and service to who we are. There are truly few people in this entire world who were more genuine and kind than our chief.”
Justin McIntire spent 22 years as a police officer and four as chief. He dedicated himself, and his life, to giving back to the small borough where he was born and raised.
Finally, my daughter Kara is a nurse in the Chicago area. Pediatrics. Beyond dedicated. So proud of her that I have tears in my eyes as I’m writing this.
She has called me crying more times than I can count after she lost a patient she had grown close to. She spends loads of money buying toys and other things for underprivileged kids who have nothing to play with when spending weeks in the hospital. She doesn’t advertise or ask for assistance, it’s a drive in her to help where she can.
When Covid hit, she was moved to a Covid floor. She told me how she held the phone up to a patient’s ear so he could talk to his mother. He was dying.
Later she was put in a position to get on top of that patient and administer CPR. Pushing down violently on his chest, cracking ribs in a valiant attempt to save his life.
She was devastated. Emotionally spent. Drained physically.
She moved on to her next patient.
A nurse posted something interesting on social media. It was another nurse talking about the media addressing the emotions of the NFL players who were forced to witness CPR being administered to Damar Hamlin. The violence of what it is. The counseling they had been offered.
This very young lady made an important point. And I’m paraphrasing.
“Yes, it is violent. You are pushing down through the ribs, breaking the ribs, trying to reach the heart and get it started again. Not to take away from the players who witnessed this but, we do this every day! No one asks us if we need time off. I’ve never been asked if I need counseling. We cannot take a break. We just move on. We have to!”
Again, she wasn’t making the statement to belittle the players, she was bringing to light, a point.
First responders deal with violence, death, attempts to save lives, heartache, loss, etc. every single day. And few people give it a second thought.
“That’s what you get paid for,” is often the response from the general public.
Which brings me to another meme making the round on First Responder pages.
It was a picture of that ambulance on the field. Surrounded by both teams and coaches watching the medics and trainers trying to, and succeeding in, saving Damar Hamlin’s life.
There was a red circle around the ambulance and the caption basically said, “The people within that circle are the least paid, the least recognized yet the most important people on that field!”
This is what the public needs to know but don’t particularly seem interested in. First responders are always needed and are always there.
They are also real people who experience real emotions. Emotions that are often overlooked and too often ignored by the general public.
What often angers me is that those emotions are also often overlooked by those in charge of these people.
Thank God Damar Hamlin will recover.
Thank the first responders who sprang into action.
Pray to God for Justin McIntire, his friends and family.
And perhaps thank any first responder you come across.
They aren’t famous, they aren’t on TV, they don’t get paid millions of dollars, they don’t get much recognition…
…but they do show up.
Imagine if they didn’t.
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