To the Editor:
We are fortunate to have public servants who are compassionate and vigilant, as they perform their daily duties for the community, eager to risk life and limb, reluctant to take credit, even in the case of saving a life. In a recent exclusive interview regarding such a case, in what may be the swan song of a long and distinguished tenure for the soon-to-be-retired West Tisbury police chief Beth Toomey, I learned that with the assistance of Sgt. Dan Rossi, a life in fact was saved.
On April 5, Chief Toomey, ever observant of her surroundings, as all police officers must be, noticed an anomaly on the road in front of the West Tisbury Police Department, next to the Mill Pond on the Edgartown–West Tisbury Road. Without a second thought, she asked Sergeant Rossi, “Is that a turtle?”
Sure enough, the sergeant confirmed the sighting. A small box turtle was attempting to cross the road at its peril. Without thought of the risks involved, Sergeant Rossi went to the turtle’s assistance, safely removed it from danger and released it in the Mill Pond, its intended destination.
Asked if any other town services were called in such as the EMTs or other backup units, Sergeant Rossi said there were “no injuries.”
“Was an attempt made to contact family members?”
“I think it was heading to its family,” the sergeant said.
“How did the turtle seem after the rescue?”
“It was very grateful.”
Both Chief Toomey and Sergeant Rossi seemed nonplused at their achievement. In fact, they both have had a long history of serving the turtle community, at times a trying experience. Chief Toomey recalled once when she was called to assist a teacher at the West Tisbury School. Arriving at the school, she was handed a turtle that had been befriended by a student. What started out as a routine mission went south when the turtle, held without restraints, began to roam freely in the cruiser. Thinking quickly and relying on instinct, she put the turtle in her patrolman’s hat and safely returned it to the Mill Pond.
“We have had a few fatalities, so we are hyper-vigilant,” she stated.
Sergeant Rossi is proof of the vigilance. In six attempts at turtle rescues, he has been successful six times, a perfect record.
Sergeant Skipper Manter has also seen his share of wandering turtles.
“There have been numerous occasions over the years when the turtles have been in jeopardy,” he said.
The number of turtles in the pond was “uncountable,” he said, and added that he hoped the upcoming federal census would offer some statistics.
When asked what will happen to the turtles if a new public service building is built, away from the present police station, next to the pond, Chief Toomey said in no uncertain terms, “There will be patrols.”