Chances are high that if a 911 call goes out in Newton, there will be at least one member of the Winslow family on the scene in response.
Newton Fire/EMS Capt. John Winslow started the tradition, beginning his service with the city 22 years ago. Following that, son Luke Winslow was hired at the Newton Police Department nearly six years ago, while daughter Audrey was the latest to join the cause. Though Audrey has officially served with Dickinson County EMS for two and half years, she is currently interning with Newton Fire/EMS while finishing her paramedic training.
For all three, the strong sense of team and unity ingrained in their respective branches (and established within their own home) played a big part in leading them down their career paths.
"We're all really team-oriented. That's how our family's been run our whole lives and that's how these kinds of professions are run, just being in a team, working together, lifting each other up and then helping everybody when they're down," Audrey said.
"Most of my family was in the military. My father and two sisters were career Navy people. I think that service-mindedness — wanting to serve your country, your city, your fellow man — kind of trickled down to us. I think that's probably what drew me to it, that service part as well as the team aspect," John said. "It took me a while to figure out what I wanted to do, but I think the thing that drew me to this business was the opportunity to work with a team and work in a team environment where you're absolutely dependent on one another. Then, as that team, being kind of the solution or resolution to somebody's worst day."
The third Winslow sibling, Caroline, also served as a first responder, working as a dispatcher for a short time before branching off on another career path. Considering that and with John's wife, Karla, being a respiratory therapist for many years, there can often be a lot of "shop talk" at family gatherings. For the Winslows, that can be pretty advantageous when they end up on the same call together.
As Luke put it, having that cross talk between members of different service branches has made the Winslows "trilingual" in a sense — making it easier to communicate with members of other departments in various emergency situations. Of course, communicating with your own family on scene takes that to another level.
"You're in a hairy situation, you know the dude beside you has got your back all the time; I mean, it's that times 10 when it's with your family because you know truly, no matter what, they're gonna be there for you," Luke said. "Most guys actually have to talk about stuff, but we've got our non-verbals down pretty good. A lot of weird communication leaves a lot of other people on the scene going 'what just happened?' "
"We're like members of the same team from another team as well, so when we're all on the same scene it's great," John said.
Audrey admitted her first call with her brother at the same scene played out like that, with the two being able to easily communicate because they each had some understanding of both police and EMS procedures. While it wasn't a great call to be on, she admitted she was "beaming" when she saw Luke, which helped enhance the work environment.
"It was a high-stress call and we made it low stress," Audrey said.
Communication channels are always open among the Winslows, whether that's alerting each other to what's been going on in the city or getting help with their studies (specifically for Audrey, currently).
Their roles may vary based on the call they are responding to, but one thing they are all familiar with in those situations is seeing tragedy. Those instances are ones in which that familial bond also comes in handy.
"We're fortunate to have each other that we can talk about those things," John said. "It's absolutely critical, and I've tried to hammer this home to my kids, that when you do experience those things that you talk about it."
"I can think of two or three times off the top of my head that as soon as I clock out I've gone to his house and said, 'Man, today was a bad, bad day. I know maybe you haven't seen this exact thing, but you've seen something like it and I don't know how to get past this.' It doesn't take much, just half an hour of talking about it over a cup of coffee, and it takes a huge edge off. It really helps get that healing process started, because we see it all the time," Luke said.
Faith and family can help get through those tougher times, the Winslows admitted, and even though they face that regularly, they are grateful for the opportunity to do so together.
"My dream my whole life has been to work with these guys because they're my heroes, and all their stories — it's crazy — I've always wanted to be a part of those stories," Audrey said.
"If you've ever been in a team environment where you've been part of a winning team where everything's working great, when you're doing that and you're family is there it's times 10," John said. "I would say it's times 100."