For many of us, the meaning of Thanksgiving usually includes feasts, long weekends, football games, parades, family gatherings, or even a forerunner to upcoming Christmas festivities. The “first Thanksgiving,” however, was neither a feast nor a holiday, but a simple gathering. Following the Mayflower’s arrival at Plymouth Rock on December 11, 1620, the Pilgrims suffered the loss of 46 of their original 102 colonists. With the help of 91 Indians, the remaining Pilgrims survived the bitter winter and yielded a bountiful harvest in 1621. In celebration, a traditional English harvest festival, lasting three days brought the Pilgrims and natives to unite in a “thanksgiving” observance.
This “thanksgiving” meal would not be celebrated again until June of 1676. On June 29 the community of Charlestown, Massachusetts proclaimed a day of thanksgiving for their good fortune. Ironically, this celebration excluded the Indians, as the colonists’ recognized their recent victory over the “heathen natives.” One hundred years later, in October of 1777, all 13 colonies participated in a one-time “thanksgiving” celebration which commemorated the patriotic victory over the British at Saratoga. It would take a span of over 150 more years to establish Thanksgiving as we celebrate it — George Washington proclaimed it a National holiday in 1789, Lincoln proclaimed the last Thursday in November in 1863, and Congress sanctioned it as a legal holiday in 1941.
Our country is rich in history, and we have much to be thankful for. Recognition of one’s blessings may occur quickly or it may take years to acknowledge. Compared to the 150+ years it took to establish a national holiday, it took a mere 11 years to establish 9-1-1. From the conception and recommendation of a single number to report fires in 1957 to the first and infamous 9-1-1 call made in Haleyville Alabama in 1968, Americans have been blessed with an emergency system that helps to save lives. With support from the White House Office of Telecommunications’ national policy statement in 1973, the encouragement for the nation to adopt 9-1-1 has resulted in the saving of countless lives and property. And today 9-1-1 is known as THE number to call in an emergency.
However, 9-1-1 is just a number without dedicated public safety professionals who work ‘round the clock, including holidays such as Thanksgiving. They are the calm voice at the end of the phone for millions of people in their greatest time of need. They are the experts in managing technologies to help responders stay safe. So let us give thanks for these amazing people – not only on our national day of thanksgiving, but every day…. for every heart beat of those they helped and those they will help in the future!
By Tori Dunne, External Affairs Manager, Safety Services – West