HAZZARDS of a HERO
Hazzards of a Hero
“If you haven’t been tested, you kind of wonder what you would do under the circumstances. The more I nurtured the intervenor in me the more it came out.”
A Thousand Naked Strangers: A Paramedic’s Wild Ride To The Edge And Back is the title of Kevin Hazzard’s book that sounds more like the title of a Mel Brooks spoof. To the contrary, this book is far from a spoof. Although comical at times, A Thousand Naked Strangers is receiving national buzz because of its stark realism and existential danger lurking in the corners of every page that is turned to describe the unsuspecting life of an Emergency Medical Technician. Especially, one who found his knighthood in the urban streets of Hotlanta, Georgia.
The subject of death looms hopelessly inside all of our minds. We process morbid thoughts and uncanny revelations about the final hour and the inevitable afterworld. Hazzard, one of the chosen few hundred thousand EMT’s and paramedics around the world have risked their lives to ride this insane rollercoaster of mortality.
Hazzard, originally from upstate New York, relocated to Atlanta and worked as a paramedic from 2004 to 2013, primarily at Grady Hospital. Hazzard takes time to recount a fuzzy journal of his experiences, expanding on mistakes, philosophical epiphanies, and humorous cautionary tales of chaotic recklessness that ironically brought him back to life through his cathartic writing of this memoir.
“When I got into this, I wasn’t any way convinced that I could pull it off. My only experience was this terrible accident where this guy got his face ripped off and it was horrible. I was young, totally inexperienced and I panicked. I didn’t think too much about it since I was 19, but as time went on and I got older and a bunch of my friends march off to war, you begin to wonder, is that something I can do? What is it inside of me to make a no-brainer decision to not do that? You wonder, is that who I am? I wanted to find out if I had it in me. If you haven’t been tested, you kind of wonder what you would do under the circumstances. The more I nurtured the intervenor in me the more it came out.” admits Hazzard.
The book opens with Hazzard’s confessions of a haphazard decision to join the league of rescue wanderlust. He claims, “EMS was an accidental third act” after being a failed salesman and local news reporter needing something to prove.
“I was a young, very cocky 23-year old kid. I think most 23-years olds have this sort of annoying self-confidence.” He goes on to testify that some of the appeal was derived from a strange “sense of calm and chaos. The feeling of chaos gave me peace of mind.”
What Hazzard proves is that heroes aren’t just in the movies. As much as the Call of Duty triggers the title of a popular violent war game series, it also speaks to our humanity and our call to action. Apparently, shit has gotten so bad that it appears to be the age of the unsuspecting hero. In light of the dramatic headlines in August 2015 featuring three off-duty American soldiers risking their lives to subdue terrorists on a train to Paris and celebrity Jamie Foxx pulling a man from a flipped pick-up truck on fire, heroes are coming out of their costumes.
“I don’t look at it as heroic. I just look at it as … you just had to do something,” Foxx told KCAL. “It all worked out.” said Foxx.
Although race didn’t play a part of the heroic story for Foxx, Hazzard did experienced some of the awkward racial circumstances of working in predominately black neighborhoods in Atlanta.
“I never thought anyone actually used the word ‘honky’ until I started in EMS. Turns out they do. There were plenty of people who openly disliked me or didn’t trust me because I was white. There were restaurants I was warned not to go to unless I was working with a black partner, and certainly neighborhoods and projects that were openly hostile to white people. But that said, I found overwhelmingly that people I had nothing in common with who came from a world alien to my own, were quick to open their lives to me. The positive experiences far outweighed the negative. I will never forget the way Atlanta’s black community—both patients and my coworkers – treated me like family.”