- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 18, 2003

Curling up next to a fire or making a snowman wouldn't fit on the agenda yesterday for the thousands of area residents whose jobs include keeping their neighbors healthy and safe.
For them, pulling out of the driveway early in the morning to head for work or not being able to leave work at all during the weekend comes with the job.
John Leasiolagi, a volunteer at the Cottage City Fire Company in Prince George's County, was just one of a host of firefighters, police officers and emergency medical workers on duty during the snowstorm.
Mr. Leasiolagi, 20, reported to work Saturday afternoon and soon was helping fellow firefighters free vehicle after vehicle from the snow piling up near the station on Bladensburg Road.
"Everybody's pretty much helping people out," he said. "I definitely get a good feeling about that kind of stuff."
A stuck tour bus carrying about 30 passengers was one of the beneficiaries of the firefighters' assistance, said Mr. Leasiolagi, whose own truck was enveloped in snow up to its bumper.
The Cottage City firefighters also occupied their time yesterday morning by clearing the fire station's driveway with a snowblower and cooking breakfast for the shift.
Workers at Prince George's Hospital Center in Cheverly said yesterday they didn't mind staying put to help out when their replacements didn't show or when the roads were just too sloppy for them to make it home safely.
The hospital remained busy through the Presidents Day weekend, they said, keeping them on their toes during their extended hours on the job. When they were ready to take a break, the hospital provided meals and beds, and co-workers provided conversation.
"It's like camping here, only not as nice," said Phylis Burch, a nurse in the labor and delivery department who arrived at 8 a.m. Sunday.
Mrs. Burch said her husband and children were at home but that they were checking in with one another to make sure everyone was safe.
Her family is accustomed to the potential for chaos in her schedule, she said.
For nurse midwife Maggie Holley, the problem was not being able to enjoy the simple pleasures that the snowfall brought.
"I'd just like to get out and walk in the snow," she said.
Debbie O'Brien's shift as an emergency room nurse 7:30 a.m. Sunday until 4:30 a.m. yesterday was nothing a few extra cups of coffee and the hospital's free meals couldn't handle, she said.
Ms. O'Brien, 45, was back on the clock later yesterday morning, while family members took care of her three children. She said she hoped to make her way home and into her own bed by yesterday afternoon.
"I think most of the patients have been very positive and appreciative," Ms. O'Brien said, noting that she saw only a few arriving because of injuries related to the weather.
In the District, Malcom Stukes, a manager at the Embassy Mobil gas station at 22nd and P streets NW, said he drove two hours to work from his Oxon Hill home.
It didn't bother him, Mr. Stukes said, because he knew when he accepted the job that he would have to serve customers in all weather conditions.
"I'll look outside at about 3 or 4 [a.m.], and if it's pretty rough, I'll go ahead and pour a cup of coffee and get started," he said.
He may not be saving lives or rescuing cars from snowdrifts, but Mr. Stukes said he can tell that customers who venture out onto the streets and into his gas station and convenience store appreciate having a place to go for the essentials.

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