Jacki Lyden, NPR: What is it like to rescue people who were supposed to leave and then not leave?
Richard Cole, HFD: Well, the forecasters had predicted this storm to go someplace else, and obviously for a city as large as we are, it takes a lot of time to move this many people. I think that the people in our evacuation zones that were set up... we had a large amount of those people that were able to get out. We did have part of the population that decided to stay, but it's not our job as rescuers to figure out why they stayed or whatnot. It's our job to try to make sure that we get them out.
Lyden: But if someone stays and you have to rescue them, does that create any sort of fatigue or resentment on the part of the rescue worker?
Cole: No. Our job is to come in and do what's needed. People have different reasons for why they stayed: no place to go, no family, no transportation; this is the first hurricane that they've been in, they see other people ride it out, "well, I think I can do it too;" they might not be familiar with the topography of their neighborhoods and know that it floods. So there's a lot of reasons. We don't hold resentment. It's our job to come in and save people.
["Rescue Efforts Under Way in Houston," All Things Considered, 2008.09.13]
Maybe pharmacists and other medical workers agitating for "conscience clause" exceptions should take their cues from the brave men and women of the Houston Fire Department: following your conscience means doing the job you've agreed to do. And for the brave men and women of the Houston Fire Department, doing the job means helping people, not judging them.