EDITOR'S NOTE: “Columbus Champion” is an initiative to recognize and tell the stories of local individuals who have gone above and beyond to make a positive impact on the Columbus community.
If you know someone in the Columbus community who has gone above and beyond to make a positive impact, nominate them as a Columbus Champion!
Written by: Aaron Tomich, ColumbusCrewSC.com
Published: July 28, 2020
Home is where the heart is, and for many people, one community has been home for their entire lifetimes. Life begins in that community. Education is established there, with careers continuing after. Pain and joy are shared in that community, and as families begin in one area, fandom eventually spreads in that very same community.
For firefighter and EMT Steve Reichert, this narrative fits perfectly as a description that would introduce the story of his life.
Born and raised in Linden just northeast of downtown Columbus, Steve has been firmly planted in the greater Columbus area as long as he has been alive. Memories of his youth are filled in abundance with the easy walks to the Ohio State Fair, located just blocks from his childhood home in the 1960s.
Residing just north of Hudson Street, he noted that the land where the Ohio History Center and MAPFRE Stadium currently sit was previously ballparks and fields, similar to that found at Columbus’s Lou Berliner Park near Greenlawn Avenue just south of downtown.
“Come springtime, you would all go there to play some ball and wait until the fair opened up and then we went to school,” he said.
Life was simple and the area had that classic Americana feel to it. It was even where he met his wife, who lived just down the road from him – nine houses away, to be exact. Time moves on, and for Steve, that meant continuing his education at The Ohio State University, just minutes down the road.
Fulfilling a childhood dream, he decided – at the age of 19 – to join as a volunteer firefighter for a station located in Clinton Township in 1975. Shortly after, his station followed suit with a station close to Ohio State’s campus on going full-time for all its firefighters. Steve then joined on the Scarlet and Gray squad as a fire inspector and an EMT through 1993. Since then, he’s been with a Plain City station while residing and having raised a family in Westerville.
“Like all little kids that wanted to be a fireman or policeman, this was really interesting, and if I got into it really deep, I thought I wouldn’t mind going to medical school, be a thoracic surgeon or see all this trauma or be an OBGYN doctor and deliver babies,” he said.
Through years of experience, with a plentitude of training hours required and re-certification every three years, Steve has certainly lived that dream to its fullest, feeling satisfied with his ability to contribute to the wellbeing and safety of his Central Ohio community.
One of the rewards of his career that was mentioned by Steve was a time where he helped deliver 23 babies into the world within a month, be it at the Ohio State hospital or even in a car, he said. But with highs, there have been lows. Steve said that the death or harm of a child during a response to a call for a fire or while working a shift as an EMT was something difficult for him.
But the brotherhood of the firefighters and EMT workers remains as a firm support for Steve, he said; a shoulder to lean on or just a person to talk with to ease the weight of grief felt at times.
All of this has been heightened since the beginning of the Coronavirus pandemic’s spread throughout the world including here in Central Ohio. His dispatchers will get calls for help and ask those people if they are sick or not – either confirmed and diagnosed as COVID-19 positive or not – and will be red-flagged if positive. For transport, minimal to no patient physical contact is made between the EMT driver and responders.
Hazmat-like suits are worn for the person who enters the house while the driver stays put. A battalion chief and a ‘floater’ will choose to be the one to help transport the sick patient out, all with minimal to no contact physically.
Like many others in his Central Ohio community, Steve and his wife, Tracie, had to find new ways to be able to connect with their family during times of physical distancing, especially when his son Cory (who works and resides in St. Louis) cannot come home to visit as he usually does each summer. But that has been no issue at all.
“Since this epidemic started, that’s how we’ve been able to talk,” he said in regards to Zoom meetings and Bible studies with his sons and wife on Wednesday nights. “It’s been a great thing.”
With the introduction to new video call resources like Zoom, many people, including Steve, have new and fun opportunity to connect. There’s no better example right now than that of supporters joining a video call while watching their sports team play.
Steve looks forward to joining many other Black and Gold supporters alike for Tuesday’s Knockout Round, Round of 16 match in the MLS Is Back Tournament against Minnesota United FC. For Steve, though he did not play soccer growing up, his neighborhood transformed into Columbus’ soccer center and his sons Cory and Stephen both grew up loving the sport.
Steve remembers the early years taking his sons to watch the Crew in both Ohio Stadium as well as MAPFRE Stadium, a sentimental space now placed in his childhood backyard.
“When [Columbus] got the Crew, we got something to really be proud of,” he said. “We started going to a few games when it first opened up, and now we get yearly tickets. When Cory comes into town, we get [to go to] probably about four to five good home games.”
Steve was certainly disappointed when learning of the Club’s potential move to Austin, Texas, but was excited when new and local investors stepped-in to keep the team in Columbus. And though the team won’t much longer be playing in MAPFRE Stadium with the new downtown stadium’s construction progressing by the day, he’s excited to continue to watch and attend games with his sons someday in the future.
“Helping people is the reward,” he said when asked about his job as a firefighter and EMT.
Here in Columbus, community is a value closely held by many. It is seen throughout daily life – firefighters, EMTs, doctors, teachers, food pantry volunteers, sports team supporters, etc. – all contributing to a greater cause of the community they have potentially been surrounded by for many years, and maybe, many more years to come. This is all true for Steve and his life’s story so far.