09/14/12 8:00am
09/14/2012 8:00 AM
Heidi Behr, Riverhead Volunteer Ambulance

NEWS-REVIEW FILE PHOTO | The future Heidi Behr Memorial Park & Boardwalk?

It’s heroes week in the United States, as it is every year around the anniversary of the 9/11 terror attacks.

TV, newspapers and Facebook abound with images and remembrances of those lost on Sept. 11, 2001, with a spotlight on the men and women who ran to their deaths to save others.

Sept. 11 has become a sort of de facto memorial day for the country’s much-deserving emergency responders.

So there may be no better time than now to remark on one of Riverhead’s greatest fallen heroes — volunteer EMT Heidi Behr — and how we could best honor her memory.

Heidi was killed in an ambulance crash while responding to a call in May 2005. William Stone, a paramedic from Rocky Point, was also killed in the crash.

They were part of a crew rushing a heart attack victim to the hospital when their ambulance struck a tree on Main Road in Aquebogue.

Heidi, only 23 at the time, left behind a 13-month-old son, Jared, who is blind and suffers from epilepsy, cerebral palsy and brain damage. Ever since the crash, he’s been raised by Heidi’s parents, John and June, with the help of their other daughter, Dana.

The outpouring of support this family has received from fellow ambulance and fire volunteers and others since Heidi’s death has been awe-inspiring.

When it was becoming nearly impossible for the Behrs to continue raising Jared, who cannot walk, in their modest 800-square-foot house on Riverside Drive, a group of local people and businesses donated time and money to rebuild the Cutchogue home of June Behr’s late parents and make it fully handicapped accessible.

It’s now a place where Jared can grow — with plenty of room for his necessary support equipment — as his grandparents age.

And through the effort to rebuild that house, the Heidi’s Helping Angels community support group was born.

Volunteers with Heidi’s Helping Angels are at work every year now, mostly raising money for scholarships for Riverhead and Mercy high school students in Heidi’s name. In fact, next Thursday night is the group’s annual steak dinner fundraiser at Polish Hall. At last year’s event, Peconic Bay Medical Center pledged an annual $5,000 donation to the Heidi Behr Memorial Scholarship Fund.

These examples of one community’s outpouring of support are why I always tell people that if they ever, God forbid, found themselves facing some life-threatening injury or otherwise in need of help after a tragedy, they would be so lucky to live in Riverhead.

This is a community that rallies like no other I’ve witnessed on Long Island.

Which is why it’s beyond my understanding that more than seven years after her death, no government property has been named in Heidi Behr’s honor. I can’t think of a more deserving person to have a highway or bridge named after her.

In town and in the schools we have dozens of places and structures, big and small, named for people. Think of all the parks named after politicians, including Stotzky Memorial Park, Milton L. Burns Park and Lombardi Park.

Yet nothing for Heidi Behr.

Here was a volunteer, a 23-year-old single mother, who died in the line of duty trying to save another person’s life. And she wasn’t just an ambulance member; she was one of the best. Heidi had received “Top Responder” and “Corpsman of the Year” awards with the ambulance corps.

She may be the town’s greatest fallen hero outside of Medal of Honor recipient Garfield Langhorn.

While we live in a world full of complainers, young and old alike, dwelling on what they haven’t got, this young women gave herself — not only to her son and her family, but to her community.

Imagine just a playground named for Heidi. Children across Riverhead might then be asking who she was.

She was one of the best our community has ever produced, parents would answer. She was a true role model.

I’ll float one bold idea right here. The riverfront boardwalk park downtown is in need of a namesake. It should be named the Heidi Behr Memorial Park & Boardwalk. Throughout most of the year, the park is a quiet, tranquil place, with the placid Peconic River as its centerpiece. It’s a place many of us stop to sit and reflect. It would be fitting.

Heidi Behr grew up just a short walk from the Peconic River as a kid. A young hero in the making.

Michael White is the editor of the News-Review. He can be reached at mwhite@timesreview.com or 631-298-3200, ext. 152.

08/12/12 1:45pm
08/12/2012 1:45 PM

JENNIFER GUSTAVSON PHOTO | Riverhead Volunteer Ambulance responded to an emergency call Sunday afternoon at Splish Splash.

Riverhead ambulance volunteers were kept busy in the heat Sunday afternoon, responding to emergency calls at both Splish Splash and Panera Bread.

An older woman was taken to Peconic Bay Medical Center after experiencing chest pains at Splish Splash in Calverton at around 12:15 p.m. Sunday afternoon, according to water park officials.

Manager Mike Bengston said the woman was experiencing chest pains and was treated by Riverhead Ambulance volunteers. No other information about the incident was available.

About an hour later, ambulance volunteers responded to a call of a woman who said she was “about to pass out” at Panera Bread on Route 58. That woman was also taken to Peconic Bay.

08/11/12 11:31am
08/11/2012 11:31 AM
TIM GANNON PHOTO | The motorcycle and minivan after Saturday's crash.

TIM GANNON PHOTO | The motorcycle in Saturday’s crash was not badly damaged.

A motorcyclist was taken to Peconic Bay Medical Center for non-life threatening injuries after his bike and a tan minivan collided on Route 58 Saturday morning.

A section of Route 58 was briefly closed to traffic while the vehicles were moved off the roadway.

The driver of the van — which was left with a large dent above its front, driver’s side wheel well after the crash — was not hurt.

The accident occurred as the van was turning left onto Route 58 from the Friendly’s restaurant parking lot just before 11 a.m., Riverhead police said.

The motorcyclist, who was heading east at the time, was transported across the street to the hospital by Riverhead Volunteer Ambulance.

Police had not determined if any summonses would be issued.

tgannon@timesreview.com

08/09/12 4:00am
08/09/2012 4:00 AM

Some things make too much sense not to be pursued.

Manorville resident Clare Bennett’s request this week to have Manorville ambulances instead of Riverhead ambulances respond to calls on her Oakwood Drive block and the immediate neighborhood is one of them.

Such a change would affect about 60 families that live at the edge of town and find themselves in the Riverhead Volunteer Ambulance district, even though they’re much closer to Manorville Community Ambulance headquarters. And we’re talking light-years closer, considering what’s at stake.

The Riverhead Volunteer Ambulance headquarters on Osborn Avenue is 10.2 miles from Oakwood Drive, while the Manorville ambulance headquarters on South Street is 3.75 miles from Oakwood. It’s actually surprising it’s taken this long for folks in these communities to speak out.

Ms. Bennett begged Riverhead Town Board members for help Tuesday, saying that she had to wait quite a while (40 minutes, a number Riverhead ambulance officials found hard to fathom) for an ambulance to arrive at her home for three separate medical emergencies in recent years. Each time she had to wait, even while knowing a row of shiny Manorville Community Ambulance vehicles stood ready just a few minutes away.

The situation is unacceptable. But because Riverhead Volunteer Ambulance is funded by a tax base that’s entirely in Riverhead Town and Manorville Community Ambulance is funded by a tax base that’s entirely in Brookhaven Town, Supervisor Sean Walter explained to Ms. Bennett on Tuesday, the only way Manorville ambulances could be allowed to respond to a Riverhead Town address would be for Riverhead to contract with Manorville for ambulance services.

But he also said the board would do what it could to make that happen and that he personally would contact Brookhaven Supervisor Mark Lesko to get the ball rolling.

So often, requests like these — residents’ imploring local officials to try to fix blatant problems with school, fire or other taxing districts — are dismissed as being impossible to achieve. So Mr. Walter’s response was encouraging.

Ms. Bennett also made it clear her request has nothing to do with dissatisfaction with the work of Riverhead volunteers. Riverhead ambulance officials should not take the Manorville resident’s request as a slight and, in response, try to jealously protect their “territory,” which is known to happen from time to time among proud emergency responders.

Should town officials in Riverhead and Brookhaven not act, Ms. Bennett vowed to circulate a petition among her neighbors, whom she said support her. This is a serious situation with a logical solution. It should not have to come to residents needing to petition en masse.

08/07/12 12:00pm
08/07/2012 12:00 PM

The Riverhead Town Board is expected to approve an agreement Tuesday allowing the Peconic YMCA group to build a Y facility on town-owned land in Calverton.

The Town Board meeting starts at 2 p.m. in Riverhead Town Hall.

The board is also expected to issue a request for proposals for companies to do billing for the Riverhead Volunteer Ambulance.

There are three public hearings schedule.

One hearing would make St. John’s Place a two-way street, the second hearing would ban left turns out of East Avenue onto Northville Turnpike and the third would eliminate the requirement that police have 20 years of service in order to qualify for a retirement incentive program, so long as they are eligible to retire.

That hearing proposes other changes to the retirement incentive program as well, such as a payment of $1,000 per year of service for up to $25,000.

We will be running a live blog from the meeting at riverheadnewsreview.com. See agenda below.

August 7, 2012 – Agenda