There were tears and laughter, hugs and high-fives at Fort Totten in Queens on Saturday afternoon as more than 700 current and former NYC EMS paramedics, emergency medical technicians and supervisors gathered from across the country for the first “Massive Green and White Reunion” in 30 years.
“Green and White” refers to the original uniform colors of emergency medical technicians and paramedics hired by the Health and Hospitals Corporation in 1973.
“I saw doctors, nurses, paramedics and EMTs. I saw chiefs, captains, lieutenants and admin staff. I saw instructors and mentors. I saw EMS, PD and FD. I saw brothers and sisters. But most of all, I saw my ‘Green and White’ family,” said Jim Scullion, a retired paramedic who along with his wife, Penina, also a medic, journeyed in from Pennsylvania.
The FDNY EMS Pipes and Drums opened the event. Some in attendance wore their old uniforms, others ambulance station T-shirts. Some sported temporary tattoos for the day. A sign at registration plainly stated: “Politics and negativity should be left at the Jetty,” referring to a distant parking area for EMS recruits.
Under a bright and cloudless sky, the EMS heroes observed a moment of silence for colleagues who have died of diseases related to their service at the World Trade Center.
Those losses, which continue to this day, fueled the desire for the grand reunion.
“It got to the point where we were seeing each other at funerals, and it got to the point where we didn’t want to do that anymore. We wanted to find an opportunity to meet in a completely different environment,” said organizer Jace Pinkus, who spent 26 years with EMS.
“One day on a Facebook page there were conversations about getting together, and I made a comment that it was time to ‘Stop the talking and make it massive.’ Within a day or two we had over 350 people who were interested in getting together,” the retired division chief said, adding: “There are people who came here from Arizona, California, Florida, but the storm in the Carolinas made some changes in people’s travel plans.”
James T. Kerr, former executive director of the Emergency Medical Service, hailed the legacy of those in attendance.
“For these folks this wasn’t a job — it was a way of life. They saved thousands of lives. They did it every day and did it gladly.” said Kerr.
Vincent Flood, of Long Island, a paramedic for 30 years, was among the throng that reflected on their days of service.
“It was a different experience every day. There was no typical day on the ambulance. Even the routine jobs had something different,” Flood said.
Arnold Pack, former head of human resources, relished meeting former hires.
“I hired 95-98 percent of the people here,” Pack said. “I’m so proud to see how many succeeded, how many grew and how many leaders we produced.”
Charlie Wells, of Oceanside, rose to the rank of division chief during his tenure from 1973 to 2007.
“The most memorable part of the job was delivering babies. I probably delivered 100 babies in three years,” he said, recalling his start in Queens.
Wells, who still volunteers with his four sons on the Baldwin Volunteer Fire Department, narrowly escaped death when he was trapped in the rubble of the World Trade Center 17 years ago.
“I wanted to see my old colleagues, some who I haven’t seen in 25 years,” he said.