Sandy Hook… An EMT’s Thoughts

On Friday morning of December 14th, 2012 I woke up and went to work like I do any other day.  I smacked the snooze button on my alarm clock multiple times, grumbling as I climbed out of bed. I got dressed, stared at the dark circles under my eyes as I brushed my teeth, deciding not to bother putting on any makeup,  and headed out the door.

I got to work, strapped my first few patients into the ECP beds, and made small talk with my patients and made jokes with my coworker.  Around 11 am I pulled up Facebook on my phone.  My news feed was filled with reports of a school shooting posted by all the EMS pages I follow, as well as a few of my EMS buddies.  I wasn’t sure what I was really reading, so I headed to the lab and pulled up Google news.

My heart dropped as I read quotes such as:  “14 children dead”, “teachers shot”, “elementary school shooting”, “Police and EMS still on scene”, “area schools on lock down”.  I rushed to the ECP room and informed my coworker of the breaking news, patients overhearing and muttering their comments about such an incident.  As the day progressed, I kept checking in on the story, the body count growing, forcing my eyes to hold back tears as I read the updates.  I texted my friends who had children of that age, and told them to hug their children tight when they came home from school.

I got home from work and immediately headed to my bedroom to turn on the TV.  I found my mom in my room, watching TV and asked if she had seen the news.  She said no, so I took the remote and flipped the channel.  Within minutes of explaining what I new, and watching the footage… my mother and I both ended up in tears.  We went up stairs to watch the multiple news channel updates with my grandpa, and sat collectively watching the screen with un-blinking eyes, tears welling and spilling down all three of our cheeks.

I am not a parent.  
I will never understand what the worry and heartache of a child is until I finally have one.

But I do understand pain, death, trauma, and loss.  After hours of watching the Sandy Hook news stories my mind flipped from the parents, who at the start of the day were thinking about Christmas presents to now planning funerals… to my EMS/Fire/Police brothers and sisters who were a part of the horrific scene laid out in an elementary school.  In my job I see things that people never see.  As part of my job, I am expected to walk into any situation and do whatever needs to be done to save a life.  I have always wanted to take part in a MCI or a relief effort.  But as I sat and thought about what the scene at Sandy Hook Elementary may have looked like to the first group of Police Officers and EMS workers.

As I thought about myself as one of those First Responders, my eyes welled with tears yet again.  I realized, it’s not just 20 sets of parents… it’s not just the families of the teachers killed… it’s not just the children affected.  As I tried to put myself in the place of one of the EMS personnel on scene, I thought to myself…  Could I have handled Sandy Hook?  Could I have walked the halls?  Seen the blood?  Seen the small bodies?  I’m not so sure.  I would (hope to) do my job walking from victim to victim, patient to patient… with tears in my eyes the entire time.  

In this job, whether its EMS/Fire/Police, we are all scarred by one call or another at some point in the career.  The career is filled with stories of retirement or “burn out” from the emotional damage the job can cause.  I can say that at this point of my three years in 911, I have yet to have a call or stories that make me regret my choice in career… only sorrow and condolences for the people and the families that I have watched die.  At some point or another, we will all get that call in our career that hurts us, haunts us… makes us reevaluate whether or not we can continue to pull on our uniform and strap on our gear.  Once again, I am forced to ask myself… as a EMT, could I have handled this?  Could I have done my job?  Or would that have been the call to end my job.

First responders are amazing people.  A large majority of them are 100% volunteer (as I am currently).  They do a job for free, that most people wouldn’t do for a paycheck.  Teachers are amazing people as well.  The one thing both jobs have in common?  They both are extremely underpaid.  Not to mention stressful, under appreciated, long hours, and taken for granted.

Last Friday,
I was given a hard shake back into reality about somethings
I had forgotten, or never realized. 

It took me almost a week to finally get my thoughts in order about what I wanted to say, and how I wanted to say it.  Even now, I’m sure this all didn’t come out how I wanted.  December 14th is only the latest incident in a too-long list of mass-shooting that have happened in the United States, this year alone.

We all need to keep the young victims  and their heroic teachers and all off the families, friends, EMS/Fire/Police personnel involved in this incident, and all the other shootings that happened this year,  in out hearts, thoughts, and if your pray… your prayers.

I leave you with a list of the mass-shooting that have happened this year.
(United States only)

December 11, 2012.
On Tuesday, 22-year-old Jacob Tyler Roberts killed 2 people and himself with a stolen rifle in Clackamas Town Center, Oregon. His motive is unknown.

September 27, 2012.
Five were shot to death by 36-year-old Andrew Engeldinger at Accent Signage Systems in Minneapolis, MN. Three others were wounded. Engeldinger went on a rampage after losing his job, ultimately killing himself.

August 5, 2012.
Six Sikh temple members were killed when 40-year-old US Army veteran Wade Michael Page opened fire in a gurdwara in Oak Creek, Wisconsin. Four others were injured, and Page killed himself.

July 20, 2012.
During the midnight premiere of The Dark Knight Rises in Aurora, CO, 24-year-old James Holmes killed 12 people and wounded 58. Holmes was arrested outside the theater.
(My Birthday)

May 29, 2012.
Ian Stawicki opened fire on Cafe Racer Espresso in Seattle, WA, killing 5 and himself after a citywide manhunt.

April 6, 2012.
Jake England, 19, and Alvin Watts, 32, shot 5 black men in Tulsa, Oklahoma, in racially motivated shooting spree. Three died.

April 2, 2012.
A former student, 43-year-old One L. Goh killed 7 people at Oikos University, a Korean Christian college in Oakland, CA. The shooting was the sixth-deadliest school massacre in the US and the deadliest attack on a school since the 2007 Virginia Tech massacre.

February 27, 2012. Three students were killed by Thomas “TJ” Lane, another student, in a rampage at Chardon High School in Chardon, OH. Three others were injured.

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