William Newby was in his early 20s when he first stepped foot into an ambulance for the Jersey City Medical Center as an emergency medical technician. It was 1978 and he was fighting his own nerves.
Thirty-six years later, Newby is the JCMC-Barnabas Health ambulatory tour chief and to the dismay of his fellow EMTs and paramedics, he recently announced that he will be retiring later this year, simply stating: “It’s my time.”
Despite being a first-hand witness to some of the most dramatic moments to take place in the New York metropolitan area, he has maintained a vibrant sense of humor. “I’ve seen everything, but it’s what I love. I was working when Flight 1549 went into the Hudson River,” said a gray-haired Newby. “And on 9/11, I was at Exchange Place treating patients who were making their way over from New York City anyway they could…thousands…there were thousands.”
Newby went to School 20 in Jersey City and later Snyder High School. He trained at University Hospital in Newark and would soon begin to climb at JCMC as an EMT, becoming a paramedic in 1982, and eventually tour chief by 1984. His coworkers refer to Newby as “Pops” or “Newb.”
A desk plaque reading “Tour Chief” sits on Newby’s desk, and a radio is occasionally heard exchanging messages between EMTs on duty throughout Hudson County. Today, a computer program allows Newby to track the location of all ambulances in the county.
“Back when I started we only had ambulance radios, no portables, then came portables with these red buttons,” Newby said while pointing to a button, “that open the frequency so I could hear everything that’s going on. We have a lot of technology today, but the job is still the same.”
On a daily basis Newby monitors daily operations from his Emergency Medical Services office in Jersey City, and on occasion heads out on a call if needed. On average his department responds to more than 90,000 calls per year in the county.
Despite seeing it all, Newby hasn’t become desensitized. “There’s only one thing that bothers me – I hate to see kids hit by cars, kids in cardiac arrest, kids burned, losing a kid on a call. Nothing bothers me anymore, but kids still bother me.”
Throughout his three decades with the hospital, Newby has also worked as a paramedic on Ellis Island, delivered numerous babies sometimes at people’s homes, saved countless lives and even helped save lives while off-duty. “This job has to be in your blood, it’s not for everyone.”
Newby lives in Point Pleasant with his wife Kathy. His niece Brianna Newby is following in his footsteps, as she joined JCMC as an EMT earlier this year.