This morning marks the first time I've been escorted anywhere by someone in fatigues. It was also the first time I haven't had to pay to hang out on the amazing Midway.

No, I'm no military or Midway celebrity. I was there at 9 on my Sunday morning to watch volunteers and community members participate in a massive CPR training event on the battleship-turned-museum. They were there for the finale of the inaugural CPR Across America event. The nationwide CPR training event is a partnership between several groups celebrating the 50th anniversary of one of the most important inventions in history -- CPR.

Angela Copeland, left, gets acquainted with her manikin as her friend Jessie Rose watches the instructors get started. Copeland, who's certified, said she heard about the event from Rose.

We registrants (young and old) were escorted up to the top deck of the ship. We then took our places in front of one of the hundreds of manikins strategically placed around a stage with large speakers. We knelt on the carpet that was provided for those of us who's knees and bones aren't quite as resilient as they used to be. Once we were all settled, two instructors began talking, one of them asking us if we were ready to learn to save a life. We, of course, responded that we were (who wouldn't?), and watched as they showed us how to recognize and save someone going into sudden cardiac arrest.

CPR instructors Maureen O'Connor, left, and Glenn Thomas demonstrate compressions-only CPR.

Maureen O'Connor, the PAD program manager for San Diego Heartbeat, one of the many programs involved in the event, said she was going to instruct us on the following things:

1. How to recognize a person going into sudden cardiac arrest.
2. How to take action to save the life of someone who goes into witnessed sudden cardiac arrest.
3. How to manage the even with simple, everyday items, including our phones, voice, hands and an AED.

After she demonstrated how to do effective compressions-only CPR, it was our turn. We diverted our attention to our poor, lifeless plastic torsos in desperate need of bystander-initiated CPR. We tapped and shook and asked, "Annie, are you OK?" (Cue Michael Jackson.) Then we began two minutes of 2-inch compressions on the sternum, to the beat of that catchy BeeGees tune, "Stayin' Alive" (equally catchy but way more inspiring than Queen's "Another One Bites the Dust," by the way.)

It was really cool to see everyone's heads bobbing in sync and to see all the families (and especially children) learning CPR together.

Even if children have a harder time doing effective compressions because of their size, they can still learn what to do if Mom or Dad suddenly collapses, said instructor Glenn Thomas, a regional faculty member for the AHA, and event instructor. "That's cool to see. It's always good to see them there," Thomas said.

One small participant reads the literature on CPR before the instructor demonstration.

Amanda and Darryl Patmon learned about the event through an e-mail she received from the San Diego City School District. They brought their three children and a friend to lean the life-saving technique. The children kept up with the beat while keeping smiles on their faces.

From left, Dezianna, Dezmaree and Dezmon Patton, and Justin Gonzalez, keep their compressions to the beat.

Their father, Darryl, left, (with Amanda) was complimented on the depth of his compressions.

"It's the only thing you can do to help someone [in sudden cardiac arrest]," said Cardiac Science Director Mike Brode, who spoke to participants about the differences between a heart attack and sudden cardiac arrest, and about AEDs, after they finished trying out their CPR skills.

"The device will guide you and walk you through every step of the way," Mark Hermes, who's also with Cardiac Science, added. He stressed that AEDs will only deliver a shock if they detect an electrical need. "You can only use the device to help someone in fibrillation."

O'Connor said 36,280 people have been trained through the CPR Across America event, which started in Richmond, Va., and stopped in locations in Texas, Arizona and Nevada before reaching San Diego, where it kicked off the ECCU conference being held this week in America's Finest City. They hoped that number would reach 40,000 by the end of the day.

Stay tuned on JEMS Connect and for more coverage of the ECCU conference.

Law Officer Magazine production coordinator Jan Zacharias had a good time during the training.

JEMS assistant editor Lauren Hardcastle, left, also enjoyed learning proper compressions with Zacharias and me (not pictured.)

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