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To Protect and Serve

I have never been exceptionally fond of the slogan “defund the police”. I’m pretty strongly of the opinion that the phrase too often corrupted or misinterpreted is going to be the reason that we see President Pence in 2024 (or some Pence analog). Today something happened that made me re-realize how vulnerable we all can be, and how important it is that we have resources available to help us in our greatest moments of need. (Flawed though those resources might be)

As “near death” experiences go this one is not particularly harrowing. On Saturday morning I had planned to go hiking out of Bretton Woods up the Mount Avalon Trail to Mount Tom and eventually swinging the loop around to Mount Willey via Field up in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. I decided not to go that day, the temperature was too high, the pollen was everywhere, my asthma had been acting up, and I was still a little nervous about the Johnson and Johnson vaccine I received about a month prior.

I have been climbing New Hampshire’s 4000 footers for years now. Work had me reassigned to first Long Island and then to Central New York so I was not able to get back to it for the last few years and was eager to continue my goal of submitting all 48 peaks.

For some reason at 5:45 AM Sunday, my overabundance of caution was replaced with an overabundance of exuberance, and in the face of all of these concerns, operating on about six hours of sleep, I decided to attempt to climb. I drove the hour to the trail head, chugged a 5 hour energy on my way and began the ascent. The 1st mile and a half was pretty uneventful, I was on my second major elevation gain when I started to feel a little tired. I assumed it was simply fatigue from not having slept the night before. By the time I made it above the treeline, I was struggling for breath, and my muscles started to feel as though they were cramping in my arms and legs.

Needless to say, going up the side of a mountain I did not have cell service, so I decided going down would be easier than up and turned back towards Bretton Woods. I don’t really remember the mile and a half walk back to the car, I remember being very scared and feeling like at any moment I might get a cramp that might make me sit down and I will not be able to stand again. With some laser focus, an ill advised tough guy routine, and an audiobook playing for all of the squirrels to hear I was able to distract myself sufficiently to get back down the mountain and to the car.

I assumed quite erroneously that sitting in the car would set it all to right. I was just exhausted and needed some water and something to munch on. After about 10 minutes that seemed to be the case. I started the car and headed for home, as I was approaching the place where route 302 crosses route 3 heading towards Bethlehem I began to feel very lightheaded, both of my arms began to tingle and my hands and arms were shaking. It took all of my self-control to keep the car going straight, when I noticed a state police barracks off to the left. I hit my turn signal and pulled into the parking lot.

Briefly I considered just beeping the horn until somebody came outside, but a desire to get assistance immediately got me out of the car and up to the speaker box where I spoke with the desk Sergeant who invited me in, let me sit down and promptly called an ambulance.

This is where the events get much more mundane. 3 volunteer firefighters arrived from the Twin Mountain ambulance service, they did a full series of vitals on me. I was clearly nervous but medically they couldn’t find anything wrong. After discussion they are pretty certain the issue was simply that I had a panic attack, probably caused by my feelings of dehydration while climbing the mountain with my muscles cramping. They were pretty comfortable with the opinion that I did not need to go to the hospital, and after about 25 minutes in their care they sent me home, telling me to monitor my heart rate and if it was continually elevated for more than a few hours that I would need to seek medical attention immediately.

From there I drove home and after calling my mother and crying my eyes out explaining how irresponsible I had been, how stupid a decision it was to go in the first place and how ashamed of myself I was that I had taken so few safety precautions. I sat down on the couch to rest. Then I started to write this blog.

I am safe now, in my living room in Vermont. By myself because my son has already gone back to his mothers house. My mind has no choice it seems but to wander to what might’ve happened. What if I had decided to go up instead of down? Would I have made it? Would somebody else have found me collapsed on the side of the mountain? Would I ever see my son again? Thankfully these are questions to which we will never have the answers.

What I do know is in spite of my own arrogance, irresponsibility, and generally unsafe behavior; when I got to that police station an overwhelming sense that things were going to be OK came over me. That the people in that building were going to help me regardless of whether or not I deserved it. They didn’t let me down.

All of these events have cemented my position that I do not and cannot support the far left liberal notion of defunding or abolishing the police as a part of the solution to our social problems in this country. Police departments need major reform, and bad police unions protect bad cops that is VERY true. I would submit however that the world needs more good people like those officers who helped me in it. I acknowledge I don’t know very much about them personally, I only know that people I will probably never see again were there for me in my moment of need.

Of course all of this is very anecdotal, even in my own life I’ve had unpleasant experiences with the police, specifically the MA state police if any of you have had the pleasure of dealing with them. But I don’t think I want to be so cynical that I can’t see the good that these people can also do. My ideal scenario would be to root out the bad and fully support the good. Despite their efforts I am all but certain that nothing about these officers helping someone in need will ever make it to any major publication or broadcast. Which maybe is emblematic of a larger issue, how the media presents the public and police’s relationship in such black and white terms.

The loudest among us have convinced too many people that you can’t support good police without supporting white supremacy, or you can’t be critical of the police without wanting them to be abolished. I believe there is a middle course.

I would like to see police departments adequately funded, and I would like to see additional funds to be allocated for things like mental health services, and outreach programs for the homeless. However, considering today there’s a good possibility that I am alive because of the state troopers of Troop F in Twin Mountain New Hampshire, I cannot support the notion of abolishing or defunding them.

I would strongly advise my well meaning but misguided brethren to reconsider their position. Be good to yourself and others, my friends.

Parenthetically, make sure you hydrate, and get adequate rest before physical activity. One last item on New Hampshire's official slogan, that being “live free or die”. It turns out, I definitely have a preference.

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