Not long ago if a person was in need of dire medical care the only way to get to the hospital was to take yourself or ride in the back of a police wagon. No care would be administered until you arrived at the hospital and checked in. There was no CPR, no IV drip, not even the companionship of a helpful face assuring you that everything will be alright. Think of all the lives lost because there were no Emergency Medical Service Technicians. 

In 1967 a few innovative individuals got together and decided to change that. The idea was to take young black  men with no direct career path because of lack of education, segregation, drugs, or other employment barriers in Pittsburgh’s Hill District community and train them to provide sustaining medical care while patients were en route to a hospital. And the nation’s first EMS, Freedom House, was formed.

The program was an overwhelming success. Young people entered the field and provided top notch care for the communities surrounding them. Freedom House became a source of pride and opportunity for young Black people in Pittsburgh’s racially tense times. Unfortunately, their great success and pioneering program was ultimately its downfall. White communities did not want to be treated by blacks, but they were jealous of the high level of care Freedom House provided. Not wanting to allow the cities Black neighborhoods to have an advantage the city implemented its own EMS program and phased out Freedom House leaving most of the original EMTs without work.

We all owe a great deal of gratitude and thanks to the young Black men and women of the Hill District who helped develop this much needed health care service. Because of them we all know someone who’s life has cared for by hands of EMS. Thank you.



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Lanae is lifelong Pittsburgh resident with a brief stint in Ohio for her high school and middle school years. Most of her life she lived in Wilkinsburg but recently became a resident of the north boroughs. Lanae holds an associates’ degree in fashion merchandising and a bachelor’s degree in business management. After college, Lanae, entered the insurance and financial services industry by becoming a licensed agent and a claims specialist. Lanae also is an advocate for cloth diapering and baby wearing. Through her website she offers information and sources offering cloth diapering to all women and families in need. With two boys and 3 girls ranging in ages from 18- 2 most of her time is spent traveling to ballet lessons, band practice, and cello lessons. Also, two of her children are special needs and require various appointments and therapy. When there is time left, she enjoys writing, sewing and cooking. She is currently finishing up her first novel with more already in the works. With a love for travel, Lanae and her family have been to 5 different Caribbean islands and 2 countries in South America. So, look to hear more about the organized chaos that is traveling with 5 kids.