Story by: Mark E. Brady, Chief Spokesperson, 240-508-7930
“Strange, isn’t it? Each man’s life touches so many other lives,” said Clarence, the angel in the movie, “It’s a Wonderful Life”. While it isn’t typical that members of the public safety community hear from those whose lives they have touched, it sometimes does happen. Late in January 2017, a retired Prince Georges County Firefighter was reunited with two children he rescued from a house fire 58 years ago. The odds of such a thing occurring twice in a three-month period are unheard of—well, that is until recently, when Pete Piringer, a past employee of the Prince George's County Fire/EMS Department, received a very moving email.
Pete Piringer is no stranger to the majority of residents in the national capital region. Over the past 40-plus years, he has served as Public Information Officer (PIO) and Spokesperson for the Prince George’s County Fire/Emergency Medical Services (EMS) Department, Maryland State Police, District of Columbia Fire and EMS Department, City of Laurel and the Montgomery County Department of Fire and Rescue Services where he is currently employed.
Pete started his public safety career as a civilian dispatcher with the Prince George’s County Fire Department. His duties included answering incoming 911 calls, dispatching appropriate units, and completing documentation for every call. He moved quickly up the civilian ranks and began assisting the Public Information Officer (PIO) by compiling departmental newsletters, as well as handling other administrative functions “up the hall” from the dispatch room.
Pete would frequently come down the hall to visit with the other dispatchers and check for any breaking news incidents. It was typical for him to sit down at a dispatcher’s console or in a 911 position, allowing someone to take a break. One day in 1985, he happened to be visiting the dispatch center during a time when personnel were particularly busy. An emergency 911 call came in at a console near Pete, who realized he was the only person available to answer. Little did he know that many lives would be touched because of the decision he made at that moment—a decision that helped save a life. Later that year, he met the family at an award ceremony. However, as with most public safety personnel, Pete returned to work and didn’t think much more about the incident. He had done the job he signed on to do.
In October 2016, Pete received an unexpected email that stirred his emotions. The email was titled, “Back in 1985, you helped me save my sons life”. He shared the communication with his wife Pat and their daughters but otherwise kept it private for about a month. While meeting over a cup of coffee, Pete asked if he could read me a recently received email. However, his emotions did not permit him to read beyond the first paragraph. He finally said, “I will just send it to you, and you can read it when you have time.”
Pete Piringer and I have quite a lot in common, starting with us having attended high school in the District of Columbia, St. Johns and Archbishop John Carroll, respectively. Our siblings were acquainted personally and professionally. Both of us were volunteer firefighters, Pete at College Park and me at Branchville. We began our careers as dispatchers and eventually moved into the Public Information Officer position. Currently, we are both instructors at the Emergency Management Institute at the National Fire Academy in Emmitsburg, Maryland. Pete and I often travel around the country together for teaching assignments and trade show presentations. In all the years we have known one another, I cannot recall an instance when I have seen him as emotional as he was over receiving the aforementioned email. Reading it, however, I understood.
On that day in 1985, Pete’s decision to answer that 911 call was greatly impactful, even beyond the immediate saving of a young life. Thirty-one years later, the caller emailed Pete to let him know just how many lives were touched by his actions.
With permission from the sender, the following is a copy of the email Pete received.
Dear Officer Piringer,
You may not remember me but I certainly remember you. In 1985, I was living in Laurel, Maryland at the Fox Rest Woods Apartments. I went to check on my toddler son, Michael Dyer, Jr. and found he was not breathing and blue around the lips. I grabbed him, ran to the phone, and called 911. I can't recall if you originally took my call or if I was transferred, but you ended up on the line. I was hysterical yet you calmed me down enough and talked me through saving my son's life. With three quick successive "smacks" to his upper back, an obstruction was dislodged from his throat and my son began to breath again. Shortly after, the ambulance arrived and brought us to the hospital where Michael was diagnosed with pneumonia.
There was an award ceremony in Baltimore after this event where my family was invited to tell our story and you received an award. I was so thankful for you and the way you helped me.
The happy ending continues. Michael is now 32 years old. He married his lovely wife, Lauren, on October 1, 2016. Shortly before, he finished his Master's Degree is Social Work, passed his LMSW exam, and presently is working with children and teens. His main goal is to assist the troubled Veterans who return from deployment and need assistance re-acclimating to civilian life.
Officer Piringer, I am eternally grateful to you being there for my son 30 years ago. He may not be here today doing the wonderful things he is doing or be the man he has become if it weren't for you and your gift of healing...
I've attached a few pictures of Michael so you can see how well he is doing. The last is Michael to the far left, his brothers and sister, and my mother. The miracle - of which you are responsible - continues.
God bless you and yours, Mary-Margaret Avelleyra
I am very proud of my friend Pete, for this and everything he has accomplished during his career.
It is strange, isn’t it, how each man’s life touches so many other lives?
|Pete Piringer, Chief Spokesman, Montgomery County Fire/Rescue|
|The happy ending continues. Michael is now 32 years old. He married his lovely wife, Lauren, on October 1, 2016.|
|Michael finished his Master's Degree is Social Work|
|"The last is Michael to the far left, his brothers and sister, and my mother. The miracle - of which you are responsible - continues."|