If You Ask Me ...
Observation and commentary by Martha 'Marti' Knight

 

October 7, 2010


My daughter spent her senior year at PAHS (aka PAJSHS, Port Allegany Junior-Senior High School, the official name of the institution). She also was helping with the family business and working in some local establishments. So she didn’t have a lot of time to mingle with other students in co-curricular activities.  Her main memories of those school days seem to be of a particular science course and the vocal music program.

 

The science course was Survival. She learned a lot about the terrain around here, the fields and forests and streams, and about living in harmony with our environment and surviving out there in case she might become lost or stranded sometime.

 

My recollection is that passing or failing the course rested in good part on a test that consisted of going out in pairs, as buddies, on a survival trek that would last all day. Challenges would include some climbing and some fording and some rappelling and a foraging meal and pathfinding and I don’t know what all else.

 

Earlier in the course those separate skills had been presented and practiced. The big hike was quite an event, though.

 

The young man who was Joi’s trek buddy decided on a shortcut, probably in the forenoon. Maybe he and some friends had planned a rendezvous and other fun elsewhere. Joi wanted to do the trek for real, so she continued without a buddy.

 

The shortcut group had planned to show up at the proper report-in spot by the appointed time, and my recollection is that all of them did except for Joi’s trek buddy. She came home very worried. Then she went back to wait to see if the guy showed up. It seemed that he was lost. She was for going out to find him.

 

Mr. McCormick said that was his job, and he went out and found the wanderer, who was surviving just fine, just not when and where he was supposed to be practicing that most necessary of sciences. Once they got back, Mr. McCormick called to tell Joi to quit worrying.

 

Later Joi and her husband Dany joined Port Allegany Ambulance Service. “Doc” McCormick was the instructor from whom they learned their EMT skills. He coached them tirelessly and they passed the exam and became part of the rotation, along with others who took the class. They respected Doc’s knowledge and his teaching skills enormously

 

When Joi and another EMT came back from their first “fatal,” the call in which they transported R.V. Hall after a massive coronary, “Doc” helped them through the emotional aftermath

 

Years later, when she and Dany lived in California and had been here for a visit, Dany would encounter “Doc” on another ambulance run. This time Dany was the patient. He was transported as far as Port Allegany Community Hospital, after having collided head-first with the hook of a stationary Grade-all when he was bucked off the motorcycle he had just bought that day. He’d have been split from top to bottom, I imagine, had he not been wearing a helmet

 

As it was Dany did suffer severe head injuries, and a broken jaw and facial lacerations and some cracked vertebrae. Things were so touch-and-go it was not safe to move him to Hamot, so a local doctor and a neurologist-neurosurgeon were in touch all night and the next day, monitoring Dany together by means of telemetry.

 

Doc’s accurate primary survey and the measures taken at the accident scene and during transport were credited by the doctors with saving Dany’s life long enough to get him to the hospital and additional interventions.

 

The photography mini-course was another of Mr. McCormick’s creative and practical science offerings. I remember seeing some of the students who were not generally thrilled with school getting into the science and art of photography with real excitement. Somehow gear had been rounded up. Portfolios were being built.

 

Later one of those students parleyed his training into a part-time job at our favorite Port Allegany newspaper. Perhaps others used their photography skills in their work; I don’t know. But I daresay photography would be as important to most, in their adult lives, as music or art training would—or some of the other sciences!

 

At a school board meeting in the “old” library at the high school, this reporter watched a majority of the school board “support the superintendent” (a duty that was often emphasized as being their most important one) in sticking to the across-the-board prohibition of any more “technology” purchases without the superintendent’s blessing.

 

Mr. McCormick pleaded for an exception, a $49 software program to provide enhancement to the instructional program in one of his courses. There would be no net cost to the district, under a grant or special arrangement—I forget the details.

 

When the board wavered because of the special circumstances, the then-superintendent bullied them. Something about starting to make exceptions, opening the floodgates, whatever.  majority of those present knuckled under.

 

That the teacher came hat in hand to the board with its collective lack of wisdom, and in spite of the truculence of that superintendent, was one more demonstration of the teacher’s determination to do whatever it would take, whatever would work, for the good of the students.

 

The same attitude has kept the Port Allegany Online website up and running all these years. Long after moving to the Ozarks, Doc has provided the wherewithal and the time and skill. A couple years back he began talking of needing to hang it up, wanting to be able to travel more, years back. But he would not do so until he could be sure he was leaving PAO in good hands.

 

Those are the hands of Brandon Abbott—hail Brandon! (If we don’t get an intro from you, I’ll be forced to write “those stories”…) But in this column, I want to thank Terry “Doc” McCormick for so very much he has given to so very many. Not farewell, please, just thanks and Vaya con Dios.

 

Peace

 

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