The incident had all the earmarks of a daring rescue. A woman fell off a cliff. A group of emergency responders just happened to be near and quickly deployed to save the day.
That scenario played out recently when Jacki Mulhair fell from Indian Rock Overlook in Union County.
Mulhair stepped too close to the edge of a cliff and then fell 86 feet, suffering numerous serious injuries.
Luckily, about two miles away personnel from the La Grande Rural Fire Protection District and Union County Search and Rescue were wrapping up training when Mulhair fell. The search and rescue team eventually rescued Mulhair. She is now in a Richland, Washington, hospital recovering from serious injuries, including broken ribs and nose and a broken leg.
But she is alive, thanks to the quick action of the search and rescue personnel. Granted, a lot of things had to go right in this incident and it was very fortuitous that the search and rescue squad was relatively nearby and could react quickly.
The incident appears to be one of those “what ifs,” where a lot of things could have gone wrong but didn’t.
The incident, though, also highlights one of those key facts about our emergency service personnel that often is overlooked. The members of the Union County Search and Rescue team are volunteers — as they are here in neighboring Grant County. They were not getting paid to go out and rescue an individual who was in a life-and-death situation. They were there because each one feels a sense of duty to the larger community.
Volunteers are a key strand in the fabric of all our communities. Without them many events and other community enhancement efforts simply would not occur. Without dedicated men and women who choose to take time out of their own busy lives to give back, someone like Mulhair might have ended up in a far worse situation.
Mulhair’s case is significant and out of the ordinary. Someone trapped and seriously injured after falling off a cliff isn’t a day-to-day event. However, when such emergencies do occur it is up to people who volunteer to help.
We are all busy and we all have other priorities — jobs, children, etc. But volunteering your time for any event or agency — such as search and rescue — isn’t just the right thing to do but a noble endeavor.
Communities across the region need more volunteers, more people that choose to step forward and help out their communities.
Sure, devoting a chunk of time to the community isn’t easy. It takes commitment and courage. But, in the end, volunteering is a rewarding act that pays off.