The Newtown massacre has been well written about. All of the major news networks have covered it. The newspapers have written stories. Bloggers have talked. Twitter-verse has exploded. And 99% of what you will find is about the dead and their families.
I have nothing against all of the discussion going on. It’s good. It’s what should be taking place.
But I do take issue to the people being neglected from any thoughts directed toward them: the first responders.
Yes, the parents, grandparents and siblings of those who died are in tremendous pain for their loss. The classmates that survived will have nightmares as a result of what took place.
But the first responders, God bless them for running into the face of the unknown, are also having nightmares and are also in tremendous pain.
The first responders had the difficult job of completing triage on the injured children and adults. They had to look at each patient and decide whether they were a red tag, yellow tag, green tag or black tag (see the START triage system for more detailed information of these triage levels). They had to decide if the patient would be transported to the hospital, or not. They had to make incredibly difficult decisions and determine if the patient had the potential of being saved, or if they had no hope of survival.
But what’s more difficult is that in the coming days, weeks, years even, these people who witnessed the horror firsthand must interact with the families of the dead. The people who decided Child A would not be taken to the hospital, even while showing some faint signs of life, still have to look the parents in the face knowing the decision they made that their child would not be given a chance (all the while knowing if would have done no good to give them “a chance” — they know it would not have made a difference).
They have nightmares about what they did…what they saw. They wake up in the middle of the night in a panic wondering “what if…”.
What if I was better trained? Would I have assigned the triage levels I did to patients? Would more have been able to be saved?
What if there were more responders? With more of us, we could have made more rapid/frequent transports to the hospital.
It certainly takes a special person to be an EMT or Paramedic. We see things day in and day out that we would never wish the public to see. But this goes beyond what even we can handle.
And the thing is, they have to go back to work and serve the citizens of Newtown. Even as they struggle to deal with the reality of what happened on Friday, they have to go back. They have to continue to be there for their community.
I’ll leave you with this: here’s a great article from an EMS blogger. He makes some very good points about the tragedy and the effects that this has on them.
As you remember the families of the dead, don’t forget to remember the first responders.