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Our Say: Tragedies take a toll on communities, but we're lucky to have first responders to manage these situations.

Tyler Harris, Editor

July 1, 2019

3 Min Read
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RENEWED APPRECIATION: Driving up on the scene of a crash minutes before emergency responders arrived is something not easily forgotten. However, I came away with a renewed appreciation for emergency responders.Evgen_Prozhyrko/getty images

It's the kind of thing you hope you never see — driving up on a bad car crash certainly sends a shock to the system, but there's not much we can do to control it.

On a recent trip in the Nebraska Panhandle, I left my hotel to head to an early interview. While driving west on Highway 26 west of Bridgeport, Neb., I saw the signs of something out of the ordinary, and it didn't take long to realize it was a car crash.

Because of the nature of the crash, it made headlines at news outlets across the state. There had been a head-on collision, taking the lives of 51-year-old Nebraska state trooper and U.S. Army veteran Jerry Smith of Scottsbluff, Neb., and 28-year-old Derek Lacrete of Lewellen, Neb.

The loss of two of its residents has taken a heavy toll on the western Nebraska region, and although the community has since shown an outpouring of support, it's never easy to lose friends or family members — especially in such a tragic turn of events.

For someone like me, driving up on such a horrific scene and seeing the aftermath of a crash only minutes before emergency responders arrived is something not easily forgotten — writing about it is not an easy task. However, as I struggle to write this, I'm beyond thankful for the emergency responders, state troopers and sheriff's deputies on the scene that day.

I don't know the name of the gentleman who, arriving on the scene of the crash before me and a couple of other drivers, took the initiative to direct oncoming traffic around the accident and was undoubtedly one of several who called 911 that morning.

I also don't know the name of the young state patrolman who, after I returned to the highway after my interview, offered easy directions for a detour back to Bridgeport before advising, "Drive safe." The calm demeanor shown by these first responders in a time of crisis was greatly appreciated.

This was a tragic event, and my heart goes out to the Nebraska State Patrol and the families and friends affected by this tragedy. If anything, it reaffirmed that I've chosen the right profession.

Covering agriculture has its challenges at times, but it pales in comparison to responding to these kinds of events and the everyday challenges that go with working as a state trooper — even in a more rural and arguably more peaceful state such as Nebraska.

From that standpoint, I walked away with a renewed appreciation for state troopers and first responders — particularly those working in these rural areas. These are the men and women who often respond when there's an accident on the farm or ranch and are at times tasked with delivering bad news in the event of a tragedy.

It isn't an easy job, and it takes a certain person to do it. The crash that took place in the Panhandle in June, and the response to it, were clear evidence of that.

About the Author(s)

Tyler Harris

Editor, Wallaces Farmer

Tyler Harris is the editor for Wallaces Farmer. He started at Farm Progress as a field editor, covering Missouri, Kansas and Iowa. Before joining Farm Progress, Tyler got his feet wet covering agriculture and rural issues while attending the University of Iowa, taking any chance he could to get outside the city limits and get on to the farm. This included working for Kalona News, south of Iowa City in the town of Kalona, followed by an internship at Wallaces Farmer in Des Moines after graduation.

Coming from a farm family in southwest Iowa, Tyler is largely interested in how issues impact people at the producer level. True to the reason he started reporting, he loves getting out of town and meeting with producers on the farm, which also gives him a firsthand look at how agriculture and urban interact.

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