Boston’s Emergency Medical Services held its annual Awards banquet on Friday night at Venezia’s in Dorchester and among the honorees were three men who were among the very first responders to April’s bomb attack at the Boston Marathon.
EMT Chris Holgate, a 41 year-old Dorchester resident, was part of a three-person “striker” team that was positioned at the Boston Marathon finish line. Holgate swung into action immediately and treated two survivors and one of the victims who died at the scene. Holgate was honored alongside his fellow striker crew members, Lt. John Cotter and Paramedic Randy Souza for their life-saving efforts that day.
“EMT Holgate demonstrated incredible courage and bravery in helping the injured along Boylston Street that afternoon,” said Chief James Hooley, himself a Dorchester native. “Even in the face of uncertainty and danger, his first instinct was to run to the aid of others. It’s this spirit that defines the work of Boston EMS.”
Holgate— who grew up near Four Corners— has been an EMT for eight years. His late mother, who was a registered nurse, remains his inspiration.
“My mother had a passion for helping people and I have that same feeling when I’m there to help people,” Holgate told the Reporter. “I always had a fascination with this job, even growing up seeing (former EMS chief) Richie Serino doing the calls in my neighborhood back then.”
Nothing prepared Holgate for what he witnessed on Marathon Monday. He’d worked the race before and was accustomed to assisting runners suffering from dehydration and cramps.
“I never experienced anything like this and I never expected anything like that to happen,” said Holgate, who continued to treat the wounded even as the Boylston Street area was being evacuated amid fears of a possible third explosion.
Holgate’s wife works as a therapist— and he says she’s been a huge help to him as he’s tried to cope with the memories of the day.
“I definitely lean on her for support and we have a peer support team here at Boston EMS as well. Everyone who was there participates in the group meetings. We stay focused and continue to move on— but we never forget,” he says.
Holgate was on duty once again during Saturday’s Red Sox celebration— posted on Boylston Street near the scene of April’s attack.
“You do get those flashbacks, with the crowds, everyone cheering. But it went smoothly,” Holgate said.
“Our EMTs and paramedics demonstrate their dedication to helping the people of Boston with the excellent care they provide every day, and it’s nice to have an opportunity to recognize that hard work,” explained Chief Hooley. This has been an especially challenging year for the department, which makes us all appreciate this time to celebrate with our families a little bit more.”
A number of other EMS workers with Dorchester ties were honored on Friday night, including EMTs Beckett, Curry, Genaro, McCormick, Dunbar, Higgins, Taylor and Chu. In total, 116 honors were awarded to department members at the ceremony and 25 service ribbons will be presented to members that have reached 25, 30 and 35 years of service. The annual Legion of Merit award was presented to Captain Robert Haley for his exceptional performance on the job this past year. Captain Haley oversees the Special Operations Division. The Boston EMS EMT of the Year honor went to EMT Thomas Alfieri, while Paramedic Rich Graham accepted the Paramedic of the Year Award.
Chris Holgate says that the opportunity to celebrate with colleagues and family was a welcome break for the EMS community— which has had another exceptionally busy few days with the demands of the Red Sox’ World Series victory and the subsequent parade.
“It was nice to see everyone together because a lot of times we don’t get recognized,” Holgate added. “I’m just glad we can do that.”