While many people were sleeping during the torrential rains of Hurricane Irene, Princeton First Aid & Rescue Squad EMT and rescue technician Michael Kenwood was swept into floodwaters while attempting a swiftwater rescue, and he drowned. Michael died in service to his community, trying to help those in need.
The sudden loss was immense for his family, friends and those of us at PFARS. The sorrow was made greater by how deeply rooted he was in his friendships, family relationships and his commitment to the community. So, how did we deal with the loss, and what can we take from it to help us move forward?
For PFARS, one important aspect has been to make sure Michael’s passing is not forgotten. Not because Michael would have wanted the attention, but because it is essential for all of us to recognize those that give of themselves to make their community a stronger, more ideal place to live. Indeed, PFARS has recognized Michael’s ultimate sacrifice at local, state and national events that focused on his community service.
Michael’s desire to become a part of emergency medical services was triggered shortly before college when his car was broadsided, thrown 40 feet off the road and wedged between two trees. Despite deep lacerations to his arm, Michael cared for the unconscious passenger in his vehicle. He swore to himself that if he survived, he would learn the skills to care for himself and others should another emergency confront him again.
Michael held true to that promise. As he recuperated, he volunteered in an emergency room and saw the work of EMTs. His interest sparked, he took an EMT class and joined his college’s first responder unit, rising quickly through the ranks to become its director.
After college, he was prevented from volunteering by law school and his big-city lifestyle, and he quickly missed this aspect of his life. A few years down the road, he became well-established as both a lawyer and the owner of a technical consulting company. He also got married and was looking to find a home in a community in which he could become a significant contributor.
Shortly after settling into the Princeton area, he joined PFARS. His achievements within our organization were phenomenal, and he earned the “Extra Mile Award” in his first year of volunteer service. He was a model member, serving the organization, the citizens of the community and the profession with dignity, honor and respect.
However, there was more to Michael. He was a great person as well. He was a respected mentor, compassionate caregiver, fantastic father, devoted husband and trusted friend. He was someone you could rely on in times of need. Michael looked for ways to make life better, whether through his words, his actions or his infectious laugh. Simply put, you wanted to be near Michael because he made you feel welcomed, valued and at ease.
As members of the community, we are responsible for those individuals who make a positive impact on peoples’ lives. Their character and actions should be celebrated to create a legacy that others are drawn to follow.
So now, shortly after the one-year anniversary of his passing, PFARS is celebrating Michael’s life and legacy with a tribute concert on Sunday, Sept. 23 at 7 p.m. The concert will be an evening of joyful music by Broadway Sings, a professional concert production company featuring stars of Broadway musicals and National Touring productions. The event will be held at the nearby Princeton High School Performing Arts Center, and will also feature a silent auction (bidding begins at 6 p.m.).
We welcome the Princeton University community to join us as we pay tribute to Michael with an evening of fantastic entertainment, and we’ve created a special student discount for the general seating section. Simply visit michaelkenwood.brownpapertickets.com, click on “Enter a Password or Discount Code,” and enter “student168” to gain access to the general admission seats for only $15. For more information, visit www.pfars.org or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Michael exemplified Princeton University’s unofficial motto, “In the nation’s service and in the service of all nations.” He selflessly served his community, and his ultimate sacrifice will not be forgotten. We look forward to having the Princeton University community join us as we celebrate Michael’s life.
Peter Simon GS ’01 is the president of the Princeton First Aid & Rescue Squad. He can be reached at email@example.com.
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