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Column

Guest View: There are no sides in making America safer

Over the police scanner, you could hear a woman scream “My baby!”

It was chilling. It was around 12:30 p.m. Wednesday; our reporters were on the way to the scene in the 25000 block of North First Street, south of Route 64 outside Sycamore, where a vehicle had gone off the road and landed upside down, submerged in three to four feet of water in a creek.

Inside the red 2013 Hyundai sedan, a 3-year-old girl was trapped in her car seat, underwater.

On the scene, DeKalb County sheriff’s deputies and Sycamore firefighters did what they had to do.

Along with a witness, five deputies and four firefighters went into the water. They lifted the car up out of the water. One firefighter broke the passenger side window. Another climbed into the vehicle through the rear window, removed the car seat and freed the child – and all the while, the others held the vehicle up.

“It was an extraordinary effort on their part, and they did an excellent job,” DeKalb County Sheriff’s Chief Deputy Andy Sullivan said. “I’m very proud of them.”

Sullivan didn’t want to name the individual deputies involved, but their actions to free 3-year-old Alaya Ochoa gave her a chance at survival. Her condition was not available from Central DuPage Hospital on Friday.

It was an emotional scene, and some people were visibly upset. Sullivan said he and the other officers were pulling for her.

Sullivan, who has been in law enforcement 20 years, said he had never encountered a situation quite like it.

The rescue was a regional news story. Daily Chronicle photos from the scene were used on several Chicago TV newscasts. The firefighters and police who worked to save that girl acted heroically.

Unfortunately, the national news story this week has been about police brutality, and then the targeted killing of police officers who were doing their jobs to protect people who were protesting that brutality in downtown Dallas. These events are tragic. They call for soul-searching. Clearly, the targeting of police in Dallas is an atrocity.

When it comes to the videos surrounding the deaths of Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, on Tuesday, and of Philando Castile in Falcon Heights, Minnesota, on Wednesday, I don’t think what happened looks right. Americans should not be killed in that way by law enforcement. The problems that underlie those incidents, including racism, are real, they are persistent and they must not be ignored, lest they continue to be repeated. Believing that does nothing to diminish the work that police and firefighters do in our communities on a daily basis. It does not constitute war with law enforcement.

Thank you to the officers and firefighters who worked to help that little girl that day, and to all those who work to protect our communities. Your neighbors support you. There should be no sides when it comes to making America safer. After a week like this, we all lose.

• Eric Olson is editor of the Daily Chronicle, a sister publication of The Herald-News and the Morris Herald-News. Reach him at 815-756-4841, ext. 2257, or eolson@shawmedia.com.

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