I was struck again today by something we don't really get to see too often in Watch Town - selflessness.
You may recall this past spring, just as COVID-19 looked certain to put the lights out in New York City for good. A group of former military medics mobilized and all converged on the city, taking temporary positions to provide desperately needed assistance to help stem the ever rising tide. I wanted to dust this off and re-share it for anyone who missed it the first time, because while in the US we are having a monumental identity crisis as to who we are as a country - a number of those Standard Issue Heroes are HEADING BACK to New York City to take up the fight again, and try to get us safely through this pandemic.
Good Luck and Godspeed.
COVID-19 has, in the words of an old university chum of mine who is now a professor of theology and Sunday School teacher, "Kicked the snot out of us." It continues to be a challenging situation.
I will ask you to go back with me to April 11th. It was a Saturday, and I was cooking dinner when my Facebook Messenger pinged. It was my friend Daniel Wentzel. At first I thought that maybe my watch repair was finished - Daniel is a highly skilled watchmaker here in Massachusetts and more than once he has taken pity on my mechanical babies and repaired them. But this message did not involve any of my watches, it was actually a request for help. Because in addition to being a very talented watchmaker, Daniel is also a proud US Army veteran who, just so happened to have served as a medic. And as it happened, Daniel was in New York City with a flood of other military vets who also had medical training. They had all converged on the city and surrounding area to help support the various hospitals and pop-up centers that were struggling to keep up with the flood of patients coming in. And believe it or don't, but there was one key thing that was needed by this massive group of volunteers -
Now in normal situations (that means back in December and January here in the US), a nurse or EMT wears a watch with a second function OR they had a nice big wall clock with a LARGE, RED second hand so that they can take accurate vital signs. Curious to relate? A smart watch is not going to be reliable as you frequently need to move your wrist to "wake up" the watch face. A cell phone will also do you no good as it requires another set of hands to hold it. And as many of these facilities were hastily assembled? Let's just say that there was a dearth of wall clocks. Long story short? Plenty of people to take pulses and blood pressure, very few of them had a watch that would do something so basic as indicate seconds elapsed!
Daniel's message was short and to the point: "We need basic quartz wristwatches with a central second. People will need to be able to disinfect them between shifts. And if possible, we need them by Tuesday. Could you reach out to your contacts for help?"
Ironically, a simple $15 watch that could be had (again, pre-lock down) on virtually any street in New York City would do the trick. That was before the lockdown. Oh, one other thing? This was the Saturday night before Easter! Oh, one other small detail -
They needed about 200 watches!
I told Daniel that I would do what I could. I reached out to Gary Girdvainis, the publisher of iW and About Time magazines and the two of us reached out to all of our contacts in the watch world. And what happened next was pretty amazing.
On Easter, which is a pretty big deal in Europe as they tend to stay closed from Friday to Tuesday, I received a response from Yasmina Pedrini of Frederique Constant / Alpina in Switzerland. She wished Wendy and me a happy Easter, and she said that they would love to help, but with shipping times, etc. it was not going to be as quick as was needed. But that she would reach out to her colleagues in the US. Monday morning an email came in to Gary at iW from Ellen Seckler of Citizen Watches in North America (Citizen is the parent company of Frederique Constant), asking what they could do to help. Without putting too fine a point on it, mountains were moved. Somehow, watches were tracked down, retrieved from a secure location, and delivered most riki-tik!
For those of you unfamiliar with this expression, per the Urban Dictionary: riki-tik
How the people at Citizen made this happened is still pretty remarkable, but within a very short time span, 175 Citizen watches arrived in New York City!
|Courtesy of Citizen|
|Courtesy of Citizen|
And then there was Ray Grenon, of Grenon's of Newport in Rhode Island. Ray made it personal by donating a large number of his personal quartz collection. On the Monday morning after Easter, he replaced all of the batteries in his watches and shipped them all down to NYC.
Curious to relate? There really wasn't anything in this for the folks who donated. These were volunteers they were giving watches to, not an official charity. There will be no tax credit statement, no mention in the monthly newsletter, no champagne thank you at the annual gala. They all stepped up and helped without expecting a thank you.
But I wanted to personally thank them all, Gary, Ray, Ollech & Wajs, Yasmina, Ellen, Citizen, and most of all? I wanted to thank Daniel and his incredibly dedicated band of brothers and sisters who stepped up to help us all be safer. There are no words sufficient.
But Daniel wanted to be sure that this story got told, so I am going to turn this part over to him -
May 21, 2020
|Daniel Wentzel on his way to the hot zone|
|Medic in action|