National Association of State EMS Officials (NASEMSO) Honors Nine Veterans of Freedom House Ambulance in Pittsburgh

June 6, 2024

June 6, 2024 (Falls Church, Va.) The National Association of State EMS Officials (NASEMSO) celebrated the Legacy of Freedom House Ambulance on May 15, 2024, at the Omni William Penn Hotel in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. More than a half-century ago, the paramedics of Freedom House Ambulance became trailblazers as they were trained to perform advancedlevel care in the streets by the father of CPR, Dr. Peter Safar. These African American men and women recruited from and serving the racially segregated Hill District of Pittsburgh were essentially the nation’s first paramedics.

Eight of the original veterans of the pioneering EMS crew appeared in person to accept recognition at the commemorative event, along with local, state, and national dignitaries who paid tribute to these EMS pioneers. Two Freedom House pioneers, John Moon and Mitchell Brown, presented a keynote.

Pittsburgh Mayor Ed Gainey issued a proclamation apologizing to the Freedom House veterans for the treatment received by city officials in 1975 when they closed the ambulance service rather than allow the rest of the city to be served by the mostly Black crew. Pennsylvania Governor Josh Shapiro issued a proclamation recognizing the contributions of Freedom House Ambulance in honor of the commemorative event.

NASEMSO President Joe House and National Highway Traffic Highway Safety Administration Office of EMS Director Gam Wijetunge presented each of the guests of honor with a commemorative plaque.

Mitchell Brown, John Moon, Phil Hallen, George McCary, William Raynovich, Darnella Wilson, Larry Underwood, Thomas Wade, and Bryan Holland, who accepted on behalf of his father, Harold Holland, attended in person to accept their awards.

NASEMSO published a commemorative booklet for the celebration, which can be viewed on the organization’s website.

The National Association of State EMS Officials is a leading national organization for EMS, a respected voice for national EMS policy with comprehensive concern and commitment to the development of effective, integrated, community-based, universal, and consistent EMS systems. Its members are the leaders of their state and territory EMS systems.