Another great conference comes to a close and the blogosphere is full of great reviews, so many that I have yet to read them all.

Some highlights for me included meeting new faces, like maddog medic and Shaolin Traumashere at meetups and in the Zoll booth.

The most inspirational moment for me came on the last day as things were winding down.  It wasn't someone inspired by our content or who writes blogs, or even someone who developed a new EMS system or program, but two sisters.

This was also the moment I realized the importance of being a person before being a blogger and how something so seemingly innocent can easily lead to disaster.

Zoll offers a CPR Challenge station so two people can do it side by side and compare their ability.  As I was sipping coffee in the booth, I looked over and saw two girls barely old enough to reach the CPR set up at the station doing their best, which was as good or better than I've seen sometimes in the field by "experienced rescuers."

It was inspirational!  Here were 2 kids barely old enough to spell Emergency, having fun applying the basics of CPR!  Forget teaching this in high schools, we need to move it forward.

Then I ruined the moment, and in an awkward way.  Being the person I am, I wanted to capture this amazing moment I was witnessing.  My hand went instinctively for my phone and before I knew what was happening I was framing up a photo.

Goosebumps were forming on my arms thinking about how the description of what I was seeing could be applied in so many ways to help rescuers and lay people alike take CPR seriously.

Through the viewfinder suddenly the mother of the children was sternly, and rightly, asking me who I was and why I was trying to photograph her children.

Now this moment was stained by my wanting to be a part of it.  The mother's interaction with me distracted the kids and the moment I had wanted to capture was gone and I felt like an idiot.  I never did snap the photo and offered my phone to her to prove it.  Apologies spilled from my mouth and I returned to the podium where my coffee was and reflected on what had just happened.

"Way to go" I thought to myself.  I could have simply watched, applauded when they were finished and had a perfect memory to use when convincing schools to add CPR classes.

I let my need to capture things digitally interfere with capturing the soul and emotion of what was happening. Something that, I now know, would have been far more powerful than a picture.

The rest of the day and our entire trip home that moment sank in and I began to second guess not getting the photo.

"Perhaps if I explained why?" The little angel on my shoulder offered.

"Oh, yeah sure, tell mom you're taking the picture to put on the internet, that'll go smoothly," responded the devil on the other side.

Now when I reflect on the moment that was, then was not, I realize there was quite the crowd gathering to watch what happened and I ruined it for them as well.



Linda Wyatt said…
A lot to think about.
But first, don't be so hard on yourself. Your motives were good ones.

I don't know about the mother's reaction being so appropriate. It was a public place, and a public event. One where MANY people were taking pictures of MANY things. To go in there, and do something somewhat unusual, and get upset at someone taking pictures is a little over the top for me.
Seems to me that someone taking a picture of that, of two kids doing something both adorable and exciting, would be almost inevitable.
And about people getting bent about things going on the internet, pictures of their kids, oh no! I have little sympathy for that. The internet is a fabulous place, and is not full of predators finding pictures of children and hunting them down. Seriously, people. I wonder if her problem had more to do with the picture being on a phone, which implies all sorts of negative things to some overreacting people, than she would have if you used a camera, especially a high quality camera, which suggests legitimacy to some? If it had been Ted taking the picture, would she have reacted the same way?

And you were right, it would have been a wonderful thing for educating people. No question.

About ruining a moment by trying to capture it... yeah. That happens. The best I've come up with is that some things are meant to exist only while they are happening, and that the act, the involvement of witnessing it, is as important as the thing itself. Looking at it from that angle, bummer. I can see how you'd feel kind of crappy.

But don't overdo it.
Sam Bradley said…
I agree with Linda. I think in a setting like a conference that there is a foregone conclusion (as with our group) and expectation that pictures will be taken and shared. Frankly, I think the woman overreacted. It's a shame that, in this world, people have to be that paranoid about the intentions of others. Don't beat yourself up over it, Buddy.
Fire Critic said…
But if only she realized that the photo might have been used in a very positive way...a single photo that might inspire change...or create a teaching tool for younger people to learn CPR...and that learning could turn into a life saved some day...

if only she realized that potential in who we are and what we do on a regular basis....
Epijunky said…
Go easy on yourself, Justin. As a ridiculously overprotective mom to two I wouldn't have thought twice about someone snapping a picture of them doing CPR at a very public event such as this. I completely agree with Fire Critic... If she only had realized the potential in that picture.
SKC Observer said…
I thought I was crazy, thinking the mother was just a tad extreme. "I don't have kids--what do I know?" I thought to myself. But still the thought "Oh just get a grip!" kept coming up. So it is good to see these comments. I agree completely with them, and the missed educational opportunity was noted too. You do have to wonder though: If you had a fancy DSLR and said you were with the local newspaper, would that have been OK?
Too Old To Work said…
My friend, you were a victim of the War Against Men. Think about it for a minute. You were taking a picture in a public place, of completely innocuous behavior by two young people. There were a couple of thousand people in that exhibit hall at any time and I'd venture to guess that most of them had cameras of some sort. I wouldn't be surprised if you were not the only person who took a picture of those kids.

The mother was totally in the wrong here. You didn't approach the kids, you didn't try to stage a photo, you were trying to catch something that was spontaneously happening in a setting where it was appropriate for that particular activity to take place.

Anyone who goes to a public event like this should expect to be photographed.

In sum, you weren't the idiot, the mother was.
Bill Carey said…
I'm glad you shared this, and I liked that you respected the mother's wishes. Despite the venue, what is wrong with respecting the parent? It's true that there could be a 'good spin' of the image, positive promotion, even education, but at some point you have to stop and just let the moment go by. The great advances and capitalization made in social media and social networking sometimes takes away empathy, emotion and such in a face to face, one on one relationship. Why do we dismiss this mother as not realizing the potential of the photo and what we do? She was at EMSToday; you're discrediting everything she has seen before and after EMS-related because she - the parent - did not want her children photographed. Regardless of who could have taken the photo, how the photo could have been used, and all the best intent, nothing trumps respecting the wishes of the parent.

Bill Carey
E Tatlow said…
Maybe a case of action before engagin brain, but not necessarily an idiot. Children showing adults that something is so easy to learn and do is never a bad thing. And as to your comment of "forget teaching this in high schools, we need to move this forward" - well we may not teach it in schools in the UK, but it's taught:
C. said…
You calmly explain the kind of picture you want to take and why. Have the children turn their heads so they are not recognizable. You take the picture with Mom right there and show her the picture you took to get her approval.

If I use a photo on the internet (for my blog of FB) I blur out any faces of children we do not personally know or if the parent (s), child ask me to.