Sonomans have always thought of those who matter most – spouse, children, parents, grand children, dear friends – when they have stepped up decade after decade to ensure that our community had its own hospital emergency room.

We Sonoma Valley residents take care of each other.

I turned 16 in my junior year at Sonoma Valley High School and got my driver’s license. Very shortly thereafter my father, who was the editor, publisher, chief reporter and photographer for the Sonoma Index-Tribune, turned over the late night, early morning emergency photography duties to me.

He had an arrangement with emergency dispatchers that they would call him at home in the event of fires, wrecks, police actions, etc.

That meant that I was often on the scene of accidents and other emergency situations in which people were seriously injured. In those days the Norrbom family ran the ambulance service and accident victims were taken to Sonoma Valley Hospital’s emergency room. It existed because local residents of my parents’ generation voted to tax themselves to create it.

After my return from college and Vietnam, I returned to the paper and to those photo duties. I also became a volunteer fireman under Sonoma Fire Chief Al Mazza.

There were no EMTs in those days, so volunteers like me were not only first responders on fires but also in assisting people who had heart attacks and other medical emergencies. They, too, went to Sonoma Valley Hospital’s ER.

From our first real hospital at Buena Vista in 1945 to present, the most important thing to local residents was the emergency room.

It still is today.

Time and time again, we Sonomans have stepped up to tax ourselves to make sure that life-saving care was here for our neighbors and us.

Local physicians were the leaders who kept our hospital and its ER moving forward with the times. They knew how precious minutes are when dealing with emergencies.

We live in an isolated corner of Sonoma County with only a few narrow country roads leading in and out. Winter weather, slick roads and dense fog can make driving those roads an act of faith. Expecting an emergency vehicle to take a gravely injured or seriously ill Sonoman on a high-speed run to an out-of-town hospital emergency room diminishes the odds of their survival.

Air-lifting someone out via helicopter can also be weather-impaired.

And in the worst case of a major earthquake or other disaster, all of us living in our lovely little isolated valley would be dependent on our local hospital and its excellent staff to be there for us.

It is the law in California that we cannot have an ER without a hospital.

Some critics have said that our hospital and ER are unnecessary and too expensive to operate in such a small community. They also suggest that larger, out of town institutions offer more than we could ever provide here. All we have to do is get there in time.

And there’s the rub – time.

Our hospital with its vital emergency room is ours to save, if we step up in time.

That time is June 6.