COLUMBUS, Ga. (WRBL)— Living history was made in Columbus Friday morning as Columbus Fire & EMS said their well-wishes to one of their own.
The 1983 Kendrick High School graduates name is Otis Bussey. He is Columbus’ first African-American paramedic and Columbus EMS’ first African-American on staff.
According to a publication by The Columbus Times in 1993, the Fountain City only had 50 paramedics at the time of his hire in 1989. He made the 51st, but first in history.
“To be the first African-American. Still hasn’t sunk in yet because it was all about doing more for my people and my patients,” Bussey said. “It wasn’t a goal set when I first started with Columbus EMS, it wasn’t a goal when we merged. But it was all about doing more for the patients. I was trained by a lot of intelligent paramedics, also EMTs. With that being said, being just an EMT limited me. So, I had to go to paramedic school.”
Bussey joined Columbus EMS in 1989 and remained on staff when Columbus Fire and Columbus EMS merged in 2001. He took a break from working with the city from 2003 to 2013 but returned to Columbus Fire & EMS where he remained until punching out of his last 24-hour shift Friday morning. He says the military instilled his servant’s heart.
“Coming out of high school, trying to find a position was pretty rough,” Bussey said. “The military, going through my training it was part of going to VA hospital and to see the veterans there and their conditions. It kind of brought out another aspect of me. I wanted to care for more people, and it allowed me to actually do so.”
Bussey served eight years in the Navy Reserves as a combat medic. He says his crew is what kept him working for the city these 25 years.
“They helped you through a lot. The laughter, we cried, we laughed. We did some goofy stuff but when it comes down to doing our jobs, everybody was on point. So, to see the people that I work with that I can call friends, family, they’re there for you. That’s the joy of it.”
Bussey’s last shift ended May 19, 2023, at 8 a.m. as he is set to retire this year. He says his greatest calls were the ones where his team came together and there was a positive outcome.