Please don't call Patrick Marshall a hero. He doesn't consider himself one, and neither do I.
He's just a young man who decided to learn what to do when a disaster hits - whether a big one like an earthquake or an everyday one like a car crash.
To learn that, Marshall, who is now 20, took a Community Emergency Response Team class as part of his senior project at Sehome High School.
His training served him well July 10, when Marshall was working as a lot attendant at an auto dealership on Iowa Street. He heard a loud crash about 11:30 a.m., rushed to the street and came upon a ghastly collision between a vehicle and a motorcyclist.
The biker, who was thrown through the air, lay in the street, badly injured. The driver stood nearby, a potential shock victim. Traffic on Iowa flowed past the wreckage.
From his training, Marshall knew what to do: Assess the situation; help the person most in need, until someone better trained shows up; help the next person most in need; then do whatever else needs to be done, all without being told.
Even though CERT training covers only basic first aid, Marshall was mentally prepared to help the motorcyclist, but saw that someone else with medical training was tending to the man, who later died of his injuries.
"I saw the guy was already being helped, so I didn't get involved," Marshall said.
When he noticed the motorist was off by himself, he talked to the man and observed him closely.
"I stood with him and made sure he didn't pass out," Marshall said.
Once a police officer arrived and talked to the driver, Marshall, on his own initiative, began directing traffic at a nearby cross street.
"Nobody was directing traffic, so I directed traffic," he said. "I saw a problem and went and solved it."
Later, an officer asked him to divert traffic at Pacific Street, so he did that.
Heroic actions? Maybe not.
Smart actions? Absolutely.
That's the idea behind CERT classes, which are designed to prepare people to respond to crises both major and minor. About 800 people have taken the training since 1999, said Bob Jacobson, the program's volunteer coordinator.
The classes don't teach everyone to administer advanced medical aid. Instead, they teach people to apply their abilities, to bow out when people with more skills arrive, and to see what else needs to be done.
Marshall, who knew about CERT because his father, Greg, had taken the class, decided to make it the focus of his senior project after he came upon a car crash three years ago. A vehicle hit a tree near Whatcom Community College, yet several motorists drove by without stopping, Marshall said. He stopped and saw that the driver was bleeding from a cut forearm, so he used his shirt, and then a towel, to staunch the flow.
"I elevated her arm and put pressure on it," he said.
Besides working at the dealership, Marshall is studying to become a helicopter pilot. He might become a volunteer firefighter, and loves the idea of flying helicopters to fight forest fires.
He was reluctant to discuss his experience July 10, but agreed to do so because he hopes other people will sign up for CERT.
"I'm not a hero, but I did something to help," he said. "CERT's all about trying to help out in day-to-day life."
CERT classes are offered at Bellingham Technical College, Whatcom Community College and through Whatcom County's Division of Emergency Management. The class costs $50 to $69, which covers training, books and an emergency kit. For details, call BTC or WCC, or call CERT coordinator Bob Jacobson, 360-778-7163.
Reach DEAN KAHN at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 715-2291.