It was a tragic day etched in the mind of a grief-stricken nation that inspired then first-grader Jonathan Porter's desire to save lives.
It was a tragic day etched in the mind of a grief-stricken nation that inspired then first-grader Jonathan Porter’s desire to save lives.
Jonathan’s father had been working inside the World Trade Center a few days before the 9/11 terrorist attacks, and was on a plane headed for Chicago during the actual event.
“Back then, you could walk right up to the gate with your family before they left,” Jonathan said. “I remember thinking that there were planes crashing into the buildings that my dad was just working at and I had just went with my mom to put my dad on a plane that morning.”
He added, “So even though I was young, 9/11 meant a lot to me. Watching the first responders rush to save lives and growing up during war time influenced my decision for sure.”
Jonathan fulfilled his boyhood dream of becoming a first-responder and took his devotion one step further by becoming an U.S. Army Reserve medic. He returned Jan. 19 from a tour of duty in Afghanistan and is back at Hambden Fire Station, enjoying the pursuit of shared values with his fellow first-responders.
“His heart is large, strong, focused and giving,” said Jonathan’s mom, Karen Porter. “I believe his future was determined on 9/11.”
Jonathan is a member of both Hambden and Chardon fire departments, and will return soon to a full-time job at the Geauga County Sheriff’s Office as a dispatcher.
When Jonathan told his mom he wanted to join the Reserves, she asked him why.
“I have always respected those that are willing to risk their lives for the safety of others and Jonathan was already serving his community and country as a paramedic, fireman and dispatcher,” Karen said. “When I told him that he was already serving his country every day, he said, ‘Mom, I have to do this. I have to serve my country.’ How could I not support that? I was overwhelmingly proud and terrified all at the same time.”
Karen reflected back on 9/11.
“It was that day, I believe, that he decided he would be one of those heroes to help in the time of crisis and his path in life has followed that path ever since,” Karen said.
Born in Ashtabula County, Jonathan’s family moved to Geauga County soon after 9/11, living mainly in Chardon, but Jonathan attended and graduated in 2013 from Cardinal Schools.
He also attended Auburn Career Center his junior and senior years, graduating with his EMT certification.
“When I was in high school, I was in the arts,” Jonathan said. “I was in the marching band and took part in shows at both Cardinal and Geauga Lyric Theater.”
Jonathan said his memorable lead roles are too many to count, but include Jean Valjean in “Les Miserables,” Riff in “West Side Story,” and Jack in “Into the Woods.”
“Jonathan is an old soul,” said his dad, Charles Porter. “We raised him so that he was often around adult situations from a very early age. He grew up working in community theater, but always had a focus on his grades.”
He added, “This focus on his grades created a focus on anything else that he did. Being around adults had made him confident in any social setting that he may be in.”
Jonathan said he left for basic training in May 2016 and returned home in October of that year. He was notified shortly after that he was going to be deploying with his unit (624th Forward Surgical Team) in early 2017 to Afghanistan.
He said he was lead medic due to his civilian experience as a paramedic and helped to run the Advanced Trauma Life Support section, similar to an emergency room.
His unit was deployed to Eastern Afghanistan along the Pakistan border where he provided forward damage control surgery to the injured so they could survive the tip to the higher level of care.
“Think of an emergency room placed near the combat with a surgical suite,” Jonathan said. “We are the first ‘hospital’ a soldier sees after they are picked up by the Medevac helicopter, commonly referred to as ‘Dustoff.’”
Jonathan was in a small group of about 10 Americans comprising nurses, medics, surgeons and a certified registered nurse anesthetist.
“You see and treat critical patients with injury patterns you only see in a combat zone,” Jonathan said. “Seeing a patient in the civilian world that has been shot or lost a limb due to an accident is not unheard of, but it is not common for a patient here to have been shot, lost limbs and have a head injury after being near a large blast.
Being able to treat such critical patients in such high volumes has advanced my skills, knowledge and comfort level. I feel that because of my experience, I am much better situated to treat patients here at home.”
Karen said it was terrifying having her son overseas.
“No parent wants to have their child in a potentially dangerous situation,” she said. “I prayed every day for his safe return and that he would not be witness to anything so horrific that it would have a significant long term effect on him.”
Jonathan said he is glad to be back home in Geauga County.
“I have great respect for anyone who is willing to give of their time to protect our country,” said Hambden Township Fire Chief Scott Hildenbrand. “I am very proud of Jonathan for what he had done to represent all of us. We need to continue to support those who are willing to serve here and away. We need to remember that they are there for all of us and when they return, they should be thanked.”