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SANDY - Emergency medical personnel from police, fire and medical teams across the state were saluted Monday for their recent efforts during Utah tragedies.
Among those honored were 65 members of the Salt Lake City Fire Department and Southwest and Gold Cross ambulance teams, recognized for their work during the Feb. 12 Trolley Square shootings, dubbed Incident of the Year.
"We are extremely proud to honor those who took part in that extraordinary, awful and tragic event that we hope never happens again," said Paul Patrick, director of the Bureau of Emergency Medical Services. "Those who lived the experience will forever be changed."
Standing before Salt Lake City Fire Department members, Battalion Chief Paul Hewitt said the awards were a way to find something hopeful in a tragedy that left six people dead and four wounded.
"All these folks are more than willing to lay their life on the line for a stranger," Hewitt said. "The courage and strength that they showed is the most positive message that we can find out of something like this."
Laurie Wilson-Bell, dispatch operator with the department, was working the night shooter Sulejman Talovic opened fire in the Salt Lake City mall. When her team reached the mall, adrenaline kicked in, she said, and she didn't have time to think about anything else but what she was trained to do: save lives. It was only later that emotions started to kick in, she said.
"It takes a special person to do this job," Wilson-Bell said. "Even though we get paid for this, caring for other people is a job that comes with being a human being."
Two students from Freemont High School also were recognized for their efforts. Chantelle Cordon and Sarah Bunn were credited with saving fellow classmate Caitlin Cluff, who fainted during a class last year due to an undetected and life-threatening heart condition.
Cordon and Bunn gave CPR to Cluff, who was present as her two classmates accepted their awards for heroism. "You just have to treat each day as a gift," Cordon said.
The ceremony, held at the Salt Lake Community College campus in Sandy, was part of Utah's Emergency Medical Services week that began Monday. Awards were also given to other pediatric teams, physicians and search and rescue teams from around the state.