Morse’s meandering opening day speech creates a stir

The Colorado Statesman

Newly designated Senate President John Morse, D-Colorado Springs, opened the legislative session with an unscripted “top secret” speech in which he shared an underlying message of working together for the greater good. But getting to that point took a winding 18-minute journey into Morse’s past days as a paramedic, during which he described a horrific traffic accident that left a father holding the IV bags as he watched his son perish.

Lawmakers sat perplexed on the Senate floor as their leader took them along for the sad recollection. During what is usually a festive day filled with laughter and excitement for the start of the legislative session, Morse’s somber introduction came as a shock to many. The point of his speech didn’t become apparent until almost 13 minutes in, which added to some of the confusion.

The Senate president would not release his remarks to the media prior to the speech, and his communications staff said they were just as much in the dark until it became time for Morse to speak. He was rehearsing right up to when he delivered his comments, and he only brought a few notes up with him for the freewheeling presentation.

It was about noon in Colorado Springs in 1979 when the accident happened, Morse related. He was dispatched to an automobile accident in which a pickup truck driven by a drunk driver had run a red light at high speed, T-boning a Camaro. The impact crushed the muscle car and knocked the driver into the passenger seat, pinning the young man in the car.

“He was hurt in a very big way,” Morse described.

Morse and fellow paramedics began working on the man, but it would prove to be an unbelievable challenge.

“We were running out of hands very, very quickly,” he continued.

But then he glanced up and saw a man standing towards the front of the crowd, “And he just had this look about him like, ‘Hey, I can help, just tell me what to do and I’ll do it,’” Morse recalled in telling the story.

So, needing the help, Morse grabbed the man and asked him to stand and hold IV bags while they worked on the victim. As time went by, the team was eventually able to free the injured man from the car and get him into the ambulance. But as they were loading the young man, he went into full cardiac arrest.

When they arrived at the hospital, surgeons quickly went to work.

“There was blood already hanging that could get plugged right into the IVs that we already started,” recalled Morse. “It was a well orchestrated deal from the very beginning to the very end.”

Unfortunately, despite their best efforts, the man was pronounced dead at the hospital about 90 minutes into the ordeal.

It was at this point in Morse’s story that he described an unbelievable, heart wrenching twist. The bystander who had been holding the IV bags at the scene of the accident was revealed to be the young man’s father.

“The father comes straight for me… and I just am doing everything I can to avoid him, and he reaches down… and grabs my hand, and he shakes my hand, and he says, ‘Thank you. Thank you for doing everything you could to save my son,’” said an emotional Morse.

“I don’t mind telling you that I went into the back of that ambulance and just wailed,” continued the Senate president. “How could something like that happen?”

But from tragedy comes inspiration, Morse told his audience of lawmakers. He spoke of the realization that in life and work, all you can do is try your best.

“We don’t win every battle,” Morse explained. “We know that we fight like the dickens, but we don’t always win.”

“I tell it to you to suggest a context in which to envision this upcoming session…” he continued.

“We didn’t accomplish our goal on that day in 1979, but we accomplished something I never could have envisioned when I got out of bed that morn-ing,” added Morse. “That was that we comforted a father in his most despe-rate moment and we did it by being absolutely committed to what we were doing and the way we were doing it.”

Senate Minority Leader Bill Cadman offers remarks

Senate Minority Leader Bill Cadman, R-Colorado Springs, offered a much less emotional speech. In fact, he began by saying, “Today is a fun day.”

But that’s not to say that the Senate minority leader didn’t touch upon some very serious topics that brought the state together in 2012, including widespread fires that claimed lives and property, as well as the Aurora mass movie theater shooting that left 12 dead and another 58 injured.

Cadman introduced Scott Appel, who lost his wife, Ann Appel, in last March’s Lower North Fork fire. He also honored citizen heroes who assisted during the fire, as well as throngs of firefighters who lined up in the Senate chamber to listen to Cadman’s speech.

In highlighting the Aurora shooting, Cadman pointed to officers with the Aurora Police Department who scrambled to the chaotic scene on July 20, rushing victims to the hospital in their police cars when room in ambulances ran out.

“We experienced the worst of the worst from Mother Nature, and the absolute worst of the worst in the evil that one man can inflict on his fellow man,” Cadman slowly contended.

His point was to shine a spotlight on shared values, and to encourage lawmakers to work for the greater good of the state.

“As policymakers, what we do here matters to the people in this room and to millions of people across the state,” he addressed legislators. “The issues we debate and decide are complex and often times controversial. But we need to keep focused on our shared values and our common goals.”

Peter@coloradostatesman.com