MONTCLAIR, NJ - This photo was taken at 11:15pm on Friday, April 17th.

The street should be lined with cars and pedestrians dotting the sidewalks. There should be Ubers and Lyfts pulling up in front of Egan’s to drop off latecomers and pick up those who stayed for “one more” after dinner. There should be a hum of friendly conversation coming from the smoking crowd standing in front of Depot Square instead of the eerie silence. The transit lot should be dotted with cars of those who extended their after work happy hours. Our second ambulance should be backing into the bay after a standby detail at the Wellmont Theater. There’s a lot that should be going on in Montclair on a spring Friday night, but much has changed in the last month.

We know you’re tired of staying home. We understand that you want to go to the stores and visit with friends; we do too. We miss our families that we can only wave to through the window, as we fear bringing something home with us and infecting them. Those of us that are lucky enough to be able to go home; we’re tired of having to strip down outside before entering and dashing into the shower. Our faces are marked and sore from wearing a mask all day. Our skin is dry from the frequent hand washing and showering. Our uniforms are frayed and faded from the constant washing. We have spent countless hours stepping directly into COVID-19’s path and fighting a battle with an invisible opponent we have only just learned of.

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In the last month, we have seen more people die than most people see in their entire lives.

Death is different now.

Death has taken 13 of our EMS brothers and sisters. Death has taken our loved ones. Death can take us at any moment.

We have spent hours reading articles, updating ourselves on the newest policies and treatments, trying to grasp the ever-changing rules and regulations of field medicine. The plethora of information is endless and overwhelming. We want people to know that this is beyond difficult. This isn’t the world of emergency medical services that we expected to enter, but we navigate this new reality to continue to serve our community.

We have been pressed into duty like never before. The call volume, at times, has been overwhelming. The pressure that this virus has put on the New Jersey EMS community has caused at least two rescue squads to temporarily suspend service.

We will not abandon you, Montclair. We are prepared and willing to fight for as long as we must to protect the people and community we love. All we ask is that you support us during this time, stay home and be patient in order to prevent a second surge. We stayed at work to serve you and your families, stay home for us so we can get back to ours.

This photo was taken at 11:15pm on Friday, April 17th; notice the only light lit on Walnut Street? We’re still at work for you, please stay at home for us.