First responders pay tribute to Bayhealth professionals

A drone photograph shows first responder vehicles at Bayhealth Hospital Sussex Campus in Milford paying tribute to staff on Tuesday night. (Delaware State Fire School)

DOVER — It was an emotional and much needed boost during these troubled times.

In an age of social distancing, area firefighters found a way to come together in spirit on Tuesday night.

They gathered ambulance crews, paramedics, EMS and police officers to lead vehicle caravans on a mission to salute medical professionals at three Bayhealth hospital and emergency center locations.

A message of thanks was read over the public address system before sirens blared and lights flashed for at least two minutes in Dover, Smyrna and Milford.

Tears flowed and hands waved, as many held inspirational signs during the outpourings at 6:45 p.m.

Organizers from the Dover and Carlisle fire companies chose a time when shift changes would reach the most hospital workers coming and going.

Bayhealth officials estimated that a combined total of 2,000 or more employees were likely present at the gathering spots.

Nurses clap and watch as firefighters and EMS from around Kent County turn on their lights and sirens during a salute to the medical staff at the Bayhealth Hospital Kent Campus in Dover on Tuesday. (Delaware State News/Marc Clery)

Employees were forewarned shortly before the arrivals because “we have to be a little bit careful with so many sirens and lights flashing. For those in our profession it can be alarming to suddenly hear and see that,” Bayhealth President and CEO Terry Murphy said.

“There was at least a short time of anticipation, though.”

Face mask wearing staff emerged from buildings to express appreciation for the visits and others peered out the windows in surprise.

“There were a lot of chills and tears that came out,” Mr. Murphy said “There’s always been an incredible amount of mutual respect and love between us and first responders and this just reinforced it in a most powerful way.”

If was a nice lift for the Bayhealth staff that’s been exceedingly resilient during the worldwide coronavirus pandemic, Mr. Murphy said.

“I wish people on the outside could see the teamwork and pride that’s shown inside each and every day,” he said.

“It’s challenging of course but there’s a sense of professionalism and pride that’s evident at all times.”

Twenty fire companies took part – 17 from Kent County and three from Sussex County.

Magnolia firefighters Matt Stoltz, left, and Richard Chavis along with other firefighters and EMS from around Kent County turn on their lights and sirens during a salute to the medical staff at the Bayhealth Hospital Kent Campus in Dover on Tuesday.

Carlisle Deputy Fire Chief Ryan Knowles said “For our members it was very humbling that we were able to give our thanks to the entire staff of people who are working through this virus and being on the front lines for all of us.”

When Mr. Knowles arrived at the mustering site near the Bayhealth Sussex Campus “it was emotional because other companies had already arrived and were very ready to go.”

In Dover, units gathered at Carroll’s Plaza on U.S. 13 and Legislative Mall before departing for the Bayhealth Kent Campus. With Dover Mayor and fireman Robin R. Christiansen at the front, they arrived at 6:40 p.m. and positioned vehicles around three sides of the facility.

A Delaware Fire School drone hovered above the Bayhealth Sussex Campus taking overhead photos soon shared on Facebook along with videos Tuesday evening.

A fire truck leaves after a salute to the medical staff at the Bayhealth Hospital Kent Campus in Dover on Tuesday.

At the Bayhealth Emergency Center in Smyrna, Clayton Fire Chief Alex Carrow said the arriving crews were “humbled by it all.”

“We’re usually the ones receiving praise and to be able to turn the tables was nice. It meant a lot to see their appreciation. Some of them were crying and it showed it meant a lot to them,” he said.

Mission accomplished

Dover Fire Department’s Sean Christiansen and Mr. Knowles spearheaded the appreciation proposal, which was presented to the Kent County Fire Chief’s Association. An email was blasted to all companies, and the movement grew almost immediately as commitments arrived.

Mr. Christiansen contacted Bayhealth Assistant Vice President Pam Marecki beforehand about possibly making visits because “with everything going on, we didn’t want to affect their operations.

“We wanted to show our appreciation but wanted to be welcome there as well.

The mission was clearly accomplished.

“Everything went off as planned,” Mr. Christiansen said. “In the fire service we deal with incident management and logistics by working together to achieve goals.”

With fire companies limiting personnel in stations as the emergency continues, the gathering was a welcome opportunity to reconnect.

Decorated window at the Bayhealth Hospital Kent Campus in Dover on Tuesday.

“Trainings are on hold and this let us get back together for a short time at least,” Hartly Fire Co. Chief Jimmy Fox said. “I think people were really glad to see each other because visitors and members need to have an official reason to be inside the station right now.”

Participating fire companies included Dover, Carlisle, Camden-Wyoming, Bowers, Felton, Hartly, Leipsic, Little Creek, Magnolia, Marydel, Ellendale, Farmington, Frederica, Milton, Houston, Slaughter Beach, Greenwood, Smyrna, Clayton and South Bowers.

Sussex and Kent County paramedics joined in, along with Smyrna, Clayton and Dover police, Saint Francis Healthcare EMS and Smyrna’s American Legion Ambulance Company .

With sincerest thanks

The following message was read over the Bayhealth Kent Campus intercom a minute before the sirens sounded Tuesday night:

“To all staff members of Bayhealth,

The men and women of the Delaware fire, EMS and police departments appreciate all of your efforts during this unprecedented time.

Little Creek and Leipsic firefighters arrive during a salute to the medical staff at the Bayhealth Hospital Kent Campus in Dover on Tuesday.

Though we may not be working next to you, we are behind 100%. We are all grateful for your commitment and everything you are doing to save the lives of those who enter your doors.

You are all in our thoughts and prayers, as we are in this together!

With our sincerest thanks, God bless, and be well!”

Helpful Coronavirus links

Delaware Division of Health Coronavirus Page
CDC: About the Coronavirus Disease 2019
CDC: What to do if You Are Sick
Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center
AP News Coronavirus Coverage
Reopening Delaware: Resources for Businesses
Delaware Phase 2 guidance

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