Books

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.

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In 1968, twenty-four Black men led a revolution in emergency medicine. This is the extraordinary story of the birth of the paramedic and the perseverance of people who forever changed how we save lives.

Until the 1970s, if you’d been shot or had a heart attack, your chances of survival were slim. In most places, a call for help brought either the police or undertakers in a hearse. But that all changed with Freedom House, the world’s first paramedics, who proved that medicine could be practiced in the back of an ambulance. In return for their efforts, they were erased from history.

American Sirens restores the medics to their rightful place in history. This dramatic story is told through the ascent of John Moon, an orphan who became a disillusioned young man, until he found his calling among this new breed of rescuers. The paramedic was the brainchild of Peter Safar, maverick physician and inventor of CPR, whose most striking innovation was not what happened in an ambulance, but who did it.

 

The men chosen to carry out Safar’s mission came from Pittsburgh’s Hill District, a neighborhood more known for crime than hope. They were unlikely saviors, facing long odds and fierce opposition in the waning years of the civil rights era—and yet they succeeded spectacularly. Based on extensive archival research and new interview with surviving paramedics, Hazzard finally returns Freedom House to its rightful place in history.

 

Never-before revealed in full, this is a rich, troubled, but ultimately inspiring history of a group who answered America’s call for help, lifting up an entire community and radically changing the face of emergency medicine.