She always had the brightest smile in the room. She was always ready to offer a hand to anyone who needed it — whether it be for comfort, or simply for their own smile.
That’s how friends and colleagues described Susan Giovanniello, a volunteer EMT with Glen Cove Emergency Medical Services, who had a medical emergency of her own and died after a shift last week. While it’s tragic when we lose anyone who worked to make the world a better place, Susan’s passing was even harder, as she was just 19 years old.
“Susan, with her contagious smile and demeanor, put forth calm in stressful situations,” Glen Cove EMS said afterward. “Her enthusiasm for training and teamwork with the corps will be greatly missed. She is a hero, and will live on in our hearts forever.”
It was no accident that Susan was doing exactly what she loved at such a young age. She was part of the Glen Cove EMS Explorers from a young age — a program started through the Boy Scouts of America that provides opportunities for young men and women to explore potential careers in a number of fields, like those of first responders.
There are now more than 5,000 posts across the country serving more than 100,000 teenagers. Teenagers just like Susan Giovanniello.
We all have busy lives, so we don’t think about the importance of first responders much until we, or someone we love, needs them most. A single EMS responder can head out on dozens of calls on a single shift, and save more lives in a day than many of us could in a lifetime.
We might not think of EMS workers putting their health and safety on the line, as do, say, police officers or firefighters. But they do. According to Lexipol’s EMS1, Giovanniello was the eighth first responder to die in the line of duty this year.
There was Chad Tate, a firefighter in Sequim, Washington, who was found dead in his bunk. Ethan Quillen, who died after coming into contact with a live power line in Paw Paw, Michigan. Tiquita Miles, who was killed in a collision between her ambulance and an SUV in Atlanta.
Minton “Butch” Beach died from an apparent heart attack during training in Oak City, North Carolina. Eddie Hykel was struck by a car in West, Texas. Matthew Madigan was also struck and killed by a car, in Detroit. Jay Miles, a firefighter and EMT, suffered a stroke while loading a patient in Pennsburg, Pennsylvania.
Even since Giovanniello’s death, we’ve lost yet another one of these heroes: veteran Chicago firefighter Jan Tchoryk, who died after climbing 11 stories in a tower that was on fire.
These are people we never met, and likely never heard of while they were alive. But that’s what makes them heroes. They weren’t wearing fancy spandex or going by some eye-catching moniker. They were everyday people, like all of us, who simply wanted to leave the world a little better than they found it.
That’s exactly who Susan Giovanniello was. If you didn’t know her name before last week, that was perfectly fine. It was never about recognition for Susan — it was simply about being there when a perfect stranger needed her most. Offering the brightest smile in the room. Ready to offer a hand to anyone who needed it.
Susan Giovanniello was a hero. A hero we lost way too soon.