By Debra J. Groom
Beverly Belton was a bit curious when a postal service worker came to her door a week ago.
“He handed me an envelope and on the front it said ‘The White House,’” Belton said. I stumbled, I was shaking. I couldn’t get it open. I said, oh my God, oh my God.”
Belton has been waiting for this letter for more than a year. It is evidence that she isn’t the only person who believes first responders deserve recognition for all the work they do.
Belton, 72, of Fulton, received an official proclamation signed by President Barack Obama that established a time period for honoring all first responders in the United States. She has been working for this since June 2013, when she lost everything but her life in a fire at her apartment building.
Her life was saved by two Fulton police officers — Officer Michael Blasczienski and Officer Brian Dumas.
“I can’t believe the President answered my letter,” she said. She had written to Obama about four to five months ago asking him to consider honoring the first responders who show up day in and day out to help people through all sorts of disasters and tragedies.
“He answered my letter and I’m just thrilled,” Belton said. “We finally got some recognition for the first responders. Isn’t that wonderful?”
On Saturday, June 1, 2013, Belton was just getting ready to step into her tub for a bath and Officer Michael Blasczienski kicked in her door to rescue her. She didn’t even know her apartment building on West Third Street South was on fire.
“The fire was right over my bathroom,” she said. “If he hadn’t come in, I’d probably be dead. The ceiling just caved in.”
Belton recently got the chance to hug Blasczienski and Dumas at the Fulton Police and Fire Awards Ceremony. Both officers received the Medal of Honor Award for saving her and others in her apartment building.
“I never moved. I sat and watched as these first responders worked, going into the house, I watched everything that they did,” Belton said, remembering the fire. “To me, this is very serious,” she said. “We need a First Responders Day.”
Now, Belton has the recognition of the top person in the land. And she’s planning a celebration with all of the first responders in the area.
“What I have suggested is we have a little reception and invite the fire department, Menter (ambulance), police, Red Cross,” she said. “I want to get copies of the proclamation made so they can hang it on their walls.”
A bill for a National First Responders Day was introduced in the House of Representatives Feb. 27. Rep. Daniel Maffei, D-Onondaga, and Rep. William Owens, D-Plattsburgh, are co-sponsors.The bill was referred to the House Oversight and Government Reform committee. And there it sits today.
“This isn’t about me. It’s about the people out there that helped me and help everyone every day,” Belton said. “I didn’t do this – the first responders did it. And they oh, so deserve this.”