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The Newtown, CT Tragedy and others like it. How do Firefighters, EMT’s, and Police Officers Cope?

Indulge me for a minute. There is a question from a Brother below that I cannot quite answer. Your comments are welcome.

We see some really bad stuff in our line of work. Luckily, the public is typically shielded from the raw gruesome details of many of the calls we go on. We are not. We cope. We formulate our own mechanisms for coping. Some sit down and talk about it, others seek professional counseling, many departments offer debriefings and/or counseling units made up of peers to talk about those “tough” calls. Captain Wines ( has written about this topic in the past. I have touched on it as well. Check out his recent post “The Newtown, Connecticut Murders and Firefighter Stress” and follow the links on the bottom of the post as well.

A Brother writes:

The tragic event that unfolded in Newtown, CT brought numerous things to light. We still, after multiple tragedies(Columbine, 9/11, Aurora)  have an inferiority complex. “It can’t or won’t happen here.” Those words have been spoken too often. What dictates that horrific events can’t take place anywhere at anytime? As a culture, first responders are deemed to be strong, smart, and ready for anything that comes our way. How do the men and women of the Sandy Hook Fire Department deal with this tragedy in the days and weeks to come? As with all incidents of this nature, it will remain a forefront event for the weeks to come, but then what? What about the things they had to endure? What can we do as brothers and sisters to help them? And what can we learn from them to better prepare ourselves in our own communities and agencies to deal with such a tragic event? My heart is heavy for all involved, the children who will never again smile on this earth, the teachers who will never help another child learn, and the responders who will never sleep well again.

What do you think? What would you tell him? Please leave a comment if you would like.


Comments - Add Yours

  • Stephanie Conn

    I did my master’s thesis on this exact topic. In short, what I learned is that they have to talk about it- to vo-workers who understand, to family & friends who can bear witness to their pain, and to professionals who can bear witness to the graphic details. If you bury it, you carry it. The way the department treats emergency responders also has a large bearing on getting over this. Is there a culture of “sucking up & moving on” or taking care of each other & normalizing their grief? My article on this topic comes out in April. I’d be happy to share my research with anyone who wants it. I was a cop for 9 years & I, too, saw lots of tragedies. It’s hard work. My heart goes out to all the responders.

  • Richard Ward EMT-P/FF

    After surviving a number of shooting and stabbing calls we are all survivors. These events no matter how horrific shows that we can NEVER underestimate any area, location, city, or state. We can only prepare for the worst and hope for the best. Each incident changes us sometimes for the worst but most times for the better. Everyone of us needs to be vigilent, aware and non-complacent because when we let down our guard we never know what will happen. Let us hope no pray that these events can be stopped, curtailed, or nullified. But we all need to not let down our guard and to try and try and try,