A former paramedic’s eye-opening and, at times, deeply moving and hilarious account of a decade spent on Atlanta’s mean streets saving lives and connecting with the beauty that lies inside catastrophe.
In the aftermath of 9/11 Kevin Hazzard felt like something was missing from his life—that his days were too safe, too routine. He wanted to test himself, see how he might respond to pressure and danger—so he signed up for emergency medical training and became, at age twenty-six, a newly minted EMT running calls in the worst sections of Atlanta. Immediately, he entered a different realm—one of blood, violence, and amazing grace.
Thoroughly intimidated at first and frequently terrified, he experienced on each nightly shift the adrenaline rush of walking into chaos. Often, the carnage was grisly, but a carousel of black-humored partners helped. And in lull moments, Kevin reflected on the way people’s facades drop away when catastrophe strikes. As his hours on the job piled up, he realized he was beginning to see into the truth of things. There is no pretense five beats into a chest compression, or in an alley next to a crack den, or on a dimly lit highway where cars have collided. Eventually, what had at first seemed impossible happened: Kevin acquired mastery. And in the process he was able to discern the differences between his freewheeling peers, what marked each as a tourist, true believer, or killer.
Combining indelible scenes that remind us of life’s fragile beauty with laugh-out-loud moments that keep us smiling through the worst, A Thousand Naked Strangers is an absorbing account of one man’s journey of self-discovery—a trip that also teaches us about ourselves.