Tue07292014

News

LASD, BCS boards finalize 5-year agreement

Bullis Charter School board members unanimously approved a five-year agreement with the Los Altos School District just before midnight Monday. The agreement, also unanimously approved by LASD trustees earlier in the evening, outlines facilities uses ...

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Schools

MVLA rolls out laptop integration this fall

MVLA rolls out laptop integration this fall


Town Crier File Photo
Starting in the fall, daily use of laptops in the classroom will be standard operating procedure for students at Los Altos and Mountain View high schools as the Mountain View Los Altos Union High School District launches a pil...

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Community

Generations blend behind the scenes at 'Wizard of Oz'

Generations blend behind the scenes at 'Wizard of Oz'


Altos Youth Theatre and Los Altos Stage Company rehearse a scene from “The Wizard of Oz.” ELIZA RIDGEWAY/ TOWN CRIER

A massive troupe of young people and grownups gathered in Los Altos this summer to stage the latest iteration of a childhood sta...

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Sports

Football in July

Football in July


Town Crier file photo
Mountain View High’s Anthony Avery is among the nine local players slated to play in tonight’s Silicon Valley Youth Classic.

Tonight’s 40th annual Silicon Valley Youth Classic – also known as the Charlie...

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Comment

Pools should be included: Editorial

Los Altos residents should be receiving calls this week from city representatives conducting a survey to determine priorities for a revamped Hillview Community Center.

Notice that we did not say “civic center” – chastened by a lack of public support...

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Special Sections

Looking for life without lows, local diabetic tests artificial pancreas

Looking for life without lows, local diabetic tests artificial pancreas


Photo by Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier
Dr. Trang Ly, left, reviews blood sugar readings on a smartphone with Los Altos resident Tia Geri, right, and fellow participant Noa Simon during a closed-loop artificial pancreas study for Type 1 diabetics.
...

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Business

Palo Alto law firm coming to 400 Main

Palo Alto law firm coming to 400 Main


Ellie Van Houtte/ Town Crier
Longtime Palo Alto law firm Thoits, Love, Hershberger & McClean plans to open an office at 400 Main St. in Los Altos after construction is complete in November.

A longtime Palo Alto law firm plans to expand int...

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Books

"Frozen in Time" chronicles harrowing WWII rescue attempts


Many readers can’t resist a true-life adventure story, especially those that shine a spotlight on people who exhibit supreme courage in the face of adversity and end up surviving – or not – against the odds.

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People

RICHARD PATRICK BRENNAN

RICHARD PATRICK BRENNAN

Resident of Palo Alto

Richard Patrick Brennan, journalist, editor, author, adventurer, died at his Palo Alto home on July 4, 2014 at age 92. He led a full life, professionally and personally. He was born and raised in San Francisco, joined the Arm...

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Travel

Travel Tidbit: Ritz-Carlton, Lake Tahoe offers spa getaway

Travel Tidbit: Ritz-Carlton, Lake Tahoe offers spa getaway


Courtesy of Ritz-Carlton
The Ritz-Carlton in Lake Tahoe offers fall getaway packages that include spa treatments and yoga classes.

Fall in North Lake Tahoe boasts crisp mornings and opportunities to spend quality time in the mountains. Specially ...

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Stepping Out

PYT stages 'Shrek'

PYT stages 'Shrek'


Lyn Healy/Spotlight Moments Photography
Dana Cullinane plays Fiona in Peninsula Youth Theatre’s “Shrek The Musical.”

Peninsula Youth Theatre presents “Shrek The Musical” Saturday through Aug. 3 at the Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts...

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Spiritual Life

Foothills Congregational: 100 years and counting

Foothills Congregational: 100 years and counting


Courtesy of Carolyn Barnes
The newly built Los Altos church in 1914 featured a bell tower and an arched front window. Both continue as elements of the building as it stands today.

Foothills Congregational Church – the oldest church building in L...

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Magazine

Festival features fun for everyone

Festival features fun for everyone


TOWN CRIER FILE PHOTO
The Los Altos Arts & Wine Festival boasts more than 375 craft and arts booths.

This weekend’s 35th annual Los Altos Arts & Wine Festival promises to be jam-packed with fun activities for just about everyone. The eve...

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A salute to our protectors: Local public safety personnel keep community secure

Photo Photos By Elliott Burr/Town Crier Santa Clara County Fire Department firefighters, top, from left, Amber Peterson, Capt. Tony Balsa and Suwanna Kerdkaew work the "A" shift at Los Altos' fire station on Almond Avenue.

 

At times, many of us take police officers, sheriff’s deputies and firefighters for granted. But those who have been helped by them – whether they’re performing CPR in a medical emergency or breaking up a potentially violent confrontation – know they can mean the difference between life and death.

With its lack of high-profile crimes, Los Altos often offers residents a false sense of security. But the horrific events of Sept. 11, 2001 – the nine-year anniversary upon us Saturday – taught us to take nothing for granted. 9/11 remains a reminder of how vital our protectors, and the services they provide, truly are.

The Town Crier recently interviewed deputies, firefighters and police officers to better understand the jobs they perform and how they serve us. We value their insights and offer their reflections on one of the most infamous days in American history.

 

 

Los Altos’ Santa Clara County Fire Department firefighters

Amber Peterson and Suwanna Kerdkaew were about to become firefighters just before two airplanes hit the World Trade Center in Manhattan nine years ago. Both had yet to respond to a call at that point, much less enter a burning building.

Rather than let the intimidating news drive them from a career that would involve certain danger, both jumped in headfirst.

“I was in the process (of taking written exams to qualify for becoming a firefighter), and they asked us in class, ‘Would you still go into a building if you knew it was going to come down?’” Peterson recalled. “It made us think, but I would absolutely want to.”

Kerdkaew, a former Genentech employee, said her desire to become a firefighter was reinforced after she noticed a flight attendant in uniform on BART a few days after Sept. 11.

“Everything I saw around me – the flight attendant, the outpouring of support – solidified my resolve to become a firefighter,” she said.

Both firefighters now work at the Santa Clara County Fire Department’s Los Altos station on Almond Avenue.

 

A variety of protections

There aren’t any buildings in Los Altos that, if targeted by terrorists, would have the same impact as two 100-plus-story skyscrapers crumbling. But it doesn’t take that kind of catastrophe to pinpoint a firefighter’s worth, according to Kerdkaew.

“It could be a one-story, two-bedroom home,” she said. “In that moment, we’re trained to do what we’re supposed to do.”

A majority of calls the Los Altos Almond station receives are medical, so it’s no wonder that American Medical Response teammates James Sauter and Samantha Tennison – based in Los Altos and also serving other Santa Clara County cities – constantly have their hands full. After two years and seven years on the job, respectively, they said it’s the difference-making incidents that motivate them amid loads of stress.

“They can be rare,” Sauter said. “When you do get it … and you know you’ve helped, it’s a great feeling.”

 

Remembering 9/11

Peterson said she was driving to the gym the morning of Sept. 11, 2001.

“I kept hearing talking on the radio, so I kept changing it,” she said. “When I got to the gym, there was no one on a single piece of equipment. They were all dead-quiet, looking at the TV.”

Capt. Tony Balsa of the Los Altos station was working as a paramedic in Campbell nine years ago.

“We went to the printer (that receives departmentwide announcements), and it (read), ‘Turn on your TV.’ We all thought ‘Wow, great. We get to watch TV,’” Balsa said. “But it was just unbelievable.”

He said everyone was ordered to remain on high alert and look for anything suspicious – on a day where anything could be suspicious.

In the post-9/11 era, Balsa said firefighters are even more cautious than before in ambiguous situations and have formed new special-ops teams trained in disaster relief.

 

Risk and reward

Any firefighter or emergency medical personnel could probably write volumes on the daily risks they encounter. Tennison, the AMR employee, recalled an especially harrowing experience.

Several years ago, early in her career, she was called to work a concert at HP Pavilion in San Jose. A local gang leader had just been released from prison and was in attendance.

“There were around 20 assaults at that concert,” Tennison said. “And I ended up with that gang leader as my patient. … He had been thrown down a flight of stairs, so he had his bell rung pretty good.”

She became stuck amid the riotous throng trying to break into her ambulance.

“Sometimes people don’t want you to help who you’re trying to help,” she said.

Tennison sat with the lights off inside the ambulance with the gang leader as they awaited a police escort.

She eventually made it safely to the hospital but acknowledged the inherent danger in saving people. Luckily, she said, the near-deaths, deaths and violence she works with are balanced out.

“It’s not just lights, sirens, blood and guts,” she said. “We also get to see babies born.”

 

Lack of closure

Kerdkaew said she and her crew rarely get to learn the outcomes of patients they assist. Peterson said it can sometimes be discomforting when there’s no closure.

The two firefighters were on the scene last July when an 84-year-old Los Altos Hills resident crashed her car into the historical Shoup Building on Main Street. After rendering assistance, they were surveying the scene when a young man approached to thank them for saving his father weeks before.

“He said he recognized us from the call,” Kerdkaew said. “Sometimes you don’t think (the patient) made it, and when you find out they did – I had tears welling.”

 

Los Altos Police Detective Sgt. Scott McCrossin

The unknown has been a close companion to Los Altos Police Detective Sgt. Scott McCrossin throughout his career.

While on patrol, routine traffic stops can morph into felony drug arrests. An alleged newspaper deliveryman driving around at 2 a.m. could turn out to be a burglar preparing to ransack a home.

Such capriciousness could drive anyone nuts.

But there’s at least one constant in McCrossin’s 13-year career with the force that motivates him to stick it out for the long haul – helping people.

“That’s a common denominator when I talk with my peers and others in law enforcement,” McCrossin said. “Helping people definitely stands out … and the memories I have of people I’ve helped.”

McCrossin, formerly a Costco manager, recalled a night he was patrolling in the wee hours in Los Altos and noticed headlights.

“Ninety-nine times out of 100 it’s going to be a paperboy or something, but I went and checked it out,” he said.

As it turned out, the vehicle’s occupants were burglars about to rob a nearby home with a lone woman inside.

“Who knows what could’ve happened? … We’ll never know how many crimes we prevent by just being in the area – flying the colors, so to speak,” McCrossin said.

And it’s not just victims he and the department try to help.

“I also look to help those who I put handcuffs on. … We try to see the best in a person,” he said. “Sometimes help is repeatedly putting them in jail, but when we see them turn their lives around, it really means something.”

McCrossin, 40, started as a dispatcher with the Los Altos Police Department 13 years ago, then went through a six-month training program to become an officer, spending two months on in-field training. He then made his way through the Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) team training, became an agent, a detective and ultimately a sergeant.

He said he’s been drawn to law enforcement since he was young, compelled by a sense of responsibility to “help those who can’t help themselves.”

“It’s almost like a warrior mentality,” he said. “A ‘save the world’ kind of thing.”

McCrossin just transferred from patrol duties to a three-year shift as detective sergeant.

 

A different kind of peril

McCrossin admits that some risks in being a Los Altos police officer don’t hold the same weight as they would in the Oakland or Los Angeles police department. But suiting up in blue for the 94022 and 94024 zip codes carries a different set of challenges.

Because an officer in Los Altos can work an entire 12-hour shift and respond to only two calls requesting assistance with a barking dog, idle time is a danger.

“I’ve had shifts where I’ve had nothing going on, then suddenly I have a car stop and I’m pulling a gun out from under the car’s front seat. That gun could have been pulled out and pointed at me,” McCrossin said. “It’s a challenge to be on high alert at all times. … You gotta be ready for it.”

He said another risk, with which nearly all police officers cope, is the off-kilter sleep schedule. Some officers assigned to the night shift work a 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. schedule.

“It’s just part of the job,” he said.

 

Reflections on Sept. 11

McCrossin said if a suspect or resident becomes upset with him in Los Altos, he doesn’t let it get under his skin, but when the two airplanes struck the Twin Towers in Manhattan nine years ago, he experienced a “flood of emotion.”

“When someone attacks my country, I take that personally,” he said.

He said 9/11 was a strange day – the police department required all units to report to the station in the event they would be called to assist in New York. That didn’t happen, but to McCrossin, it served as a reminder to remain always on high alert.

Even some Los Altos residents, he said, reported receiving packages from New York that they weren’t expecting.

He said he clipped and saved newspaper articles to show to his children and perhaps relay accounts of the day history books cannot.

 

‘Thank you for saying

thank you’

Although being a police officer isn’t completely thankless, McCrossin said, days are few and far between when someone expresses gratitude to him for what he does.

But it does happen. And it’s part of what makes his job worthwhile.

“I was eating a bagel (downtown) and someone came up to me and says, ‘Thank you for what you do.’ It kind of caught me off-guard. I said, ‘Thank you for saying thank you.’”

Good thing he’s prepared for the unexpected.

 

Patrolling the Hills

While Los Altos Hills’ raw statistics – little more than 8,000 residents, no business districts, high median income – might suggest humdrum policing, that’s not necessarily so, according to Santa Clara County Deputy Raymond Giusti, who contracts with the town.

He said most incidents are either traffic-related or property crimes.

“I’ve become adjusted to this city. A lot of people don’t like working up here because the call volume is small,” said Giusti, the only officer patrolling the town. “But as anyone who gets passionate for a job, there’s the element that they just love to do it.”

Contact Elliott Burr at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

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