Five years as an active EMT/Paramedic. Two years as a paid on call fire fighter for Bolingbrook Fire Department. All that training never prepares you for something like what happened at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut.
I was blissfully unaware of the events until I turned on the radio for my drive home from work. I sat in the drivers seat in absolute shock and horror as the reporter rolled off the numbers. Twenty six innocent lives taken from this earth. It was too much for me to wrap my brain around. What kind of evil could do this?
My mind could not help but to flash back to Columbine, Virgina Tech, Northern Illinois, Aurora Colorado, Wedgwood Baptist, Winnetka Illinois and so many more. So much death.
As a former first responder and one that still carries a fully stock basic life support jump bag in my car, we are trained to hold our emotions in check and do our job. It is only after the adrenaline wears off that the emotions start to take over. Sometimes they creep in over days or slam into us like a Mack truck. The pictures in our mind that won't stop. The screams and cries of the injured ringing in our ears. The smells that are burned into our nostrils. Even years later, many of us still relive such trauma.
Though I personally never had to endure a tragedy like Sandy Hook, I did respond to and been on scene with unspeakable carnage. I still replay the events in my mind. The questions that I still ask myself. Did I do everything I could? Did I miss anything? Why did this have to happen?
These questions and many more will replay in the minds of those that responded to that school. Along with the teachers, faculty and children, the 911 dispatchers, fire fighters, paramedics, police, doctors and nurses will forever live with what they saw, heard and smelled.
I ask you to include them in your prayers today and in the following weeks as they will continue to deal with their emotions. Lift up the critical incident stress debriefing teams that will be assisting those affected in your prayers as well. This tragedy may leave the front page in a week or so, but the pain we all feel will live on for a very long time.