Saturday, July 14, 2007
Allan Parsons' last ride
A Maine paramedic was killed when the ambulance he was riding in collided with a pick-up truck in the early morning hours of July 7th. Paramedic Allan Parsons was treating a patient in the back and was pronounced dead at the scene.
I am a photojournalist and requested the assignment to shoot his funeral. I included two images in this post. The photo of the paramedic's young son kissing his father's casket ran on the front page of the Sun Journal in Lewiston, Maine.
I included the second photo because it had a profound impact on me. I didn't know Allan Parsons. From the wide variety of passionate speakers I heard at his funeral it was easy to see that he was a dedicated, funny, caring, passionate family man and paramedic.
At the end of the service I pulled the funeral director aside to make sure it was OK to get into the cab of the ambulance as the casket was loaded. This is how I got the image of Parsons' sons at the casket.
I watched Allan Parsons' co-workers load the casket, stand there silently for a moment, then close the doors. I clicked the camera shutter as the back door of the ambulance closed.
I never met Allan Parsons. But from a vantage point no one else had, I saw--no, I felt--the ambulance doors close for the last time.
It was fortunate I had to quickly exit the ambulance so Allan's co-workers could get in to drive him past the hundreds of saluting emergency services personnel in dress uniforms standing by dozens of gleaming ambulances. Because at that moment my skin tingled, my eyes welled with tears and I realized this was the start of Allan Parsons' last ride.
As I write this, 48 hours later, I can still feel the door close. My skin still reacts with a similar chill--even though as a paramedic I have heard ambulance doors close thousands of times before.