Although this is not what John Glidden III envisioned for the home stretch of his senior year, he is using the change in circumstances to help his hometown get through the COVID-19 pandemic.
Instead of being in Tuscaloosa wrapping up his final classes as a student in aerospace engineering and prepping to start a job with Lockheed Martin, Glidden is in Closter, New Jersey, volunteering as both an EMT for Closter Volunteer Ambulance and Rescue Corps, a non-profit ambulance service, and at a drive-thru virus testing site.
“I thought I’d be finishing up with my friends and finishing up my work,” Glidden said. “It’s kind of crazy that this is actually happening, but this is a real threat we need to take seriously.”
Located about 15 minutes away from New York City, the epicenter of the COVID-19 pandemic in the U.S., Closter is dealing with cases from the novel coronavirus as well. Glidden is working for the only 911 ambulance service in town, and the majority of calls are related to COVID-19, he said.
“I’m taking every call that comes in when I’m not at the testing center,” he said. “It’s something that needs to be done, so this is my way of giving back.”
Glidden started volunteering with the ambulance service in high school, earning his EMT certification just after graduating. He worked with them when he was home from college. When he found himself unexpectedly home for nearly two months before his upcoming move to Orlando, Florida, to start work with Lockheed Martin, he returned to the ambulance service.
Some of the other EMTs and other personnel with the service are in groups vulnerable to COVID-19 and some got sick, he said.
“I’m able to do it, and I’m healthy,” Glidden said. “I enjoy it, actually. It’s a way to get out of the house without breaking the rules, but I take the precautions very seriously.”
He also volunteers at a drive-thru testing site, prepping people to be swabbed. The majority of people at this site test positive, he said.
In both roles, Glidden said extra safety precautions are taken; he feels safe. He urges others to take the quarantine and social distancing seriously.
He was supposed to be in Colorado for part of April working with the UA Remote Sensing Center in a research project, but said he is glad to be in this role.
“To be honest, this is not what I expected, but I don’t have any regrets about this,” Glidden said.