By Bobby Halton
Fire Engineering Editor in Chief
Today is World Down Syndrome Day. Many of you may be thinking, “Why would Fire Engineering take the time to call this to my attention? What does it have to do with firefighting?” We did so because here at Fire Engineering, it’s personal to us. my brother, Raymond, has Down syndrome, but in addition these people epitomize why the fire service is so important. In many cases, those citizens among us who have Down syndrome require someone to provide them with 24/7 assistance. When a catastrophe such as a fire or natural disaster occurs, these folks recognize that firefighters like them, love all people unconditionally, and will do everything they possibly can to make the situation better.
World Down Syndrome Day (WDSD) is observed on 21 March. On this day, people with Down syndrome and those who live and work with them throughout the world organize and participate in activities and events to raise public awareness of people with Down syndrome. This date–the 21st day of the third month–was selected to signify the uniqueness of the triplication (trisomy) of the 21st chromosome, which causes Down syndrome.
They say the greatest thing about a person with Down syndrome is that they have contagious smiles, that they have no anger or animosity towards anyone, and that they truly are everyone’s friend. Sounds a lot like the description of a good firefighter. We hope you take a little time today during your training hours to talk a little bit among yourselves about the specific needs of these special citizens in the communities you protect. Whether it be the elderly, those with Down syndrome, those with medical conditions, the alcoholics, the drug dependent, or those who are simply disenfranchised–they all need our help, our love, and our unrelenting service.
Please take a little while and visit the sites on the Internet where these special people’s needs are addressed, and take a little time and find out where these folks are in your community. Maybe do a pre-plan on a group home or an assisted-living center.
Hearkening back to the original Knights of Malta, the mission of the fire service is to protect the most vulnerable in our population. Take the time to educate yourself and your community about the special plight of those like Mattie, pictured in his custom-made helmet, who need our help and understanding every day.
World Down Syndrome Day: http://www.worlddownsyndromeday.org/
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Above, Mattie rides a rig outfitted with a fire helmet custom-made for him by Fire-Dex. “I’m blessed to have Mattie as my son,” says Rich Mistkowski, pictured below. “It never ceases to amaze me about the impact that Mattie has on people. He seems to be able to bring something out in people that I’ll never understand, but always marvel at.”