Most of my posts share experiences or topics I’ve researched.  My goal with each one is to teach and stimulate discussion.  I have nothing in those areas to offer about Newtown.  I have nothing of substance to add to the gun control debate.  I have no idea how to prepare to respond to an event like this, or how to prevent it.  I am not expert about mental illness or PTSD.  This post is simply an outlet for me to express my thoughts as a paramedic and father of a young child, and to share good material that other people have written.

My first reaction after hearing the news was to drive to my two and a half year-old son a hug. One of the many sad thoughts I experienced about the event took place when he handed me a Toys R Us catalog to look at.   I thought about the presents we had hidden for him to open next week as he sat on my lap and pointed at each page.  Then I was struck by the thought about presents that the parents of the victims in Newtown had hidden that will not be open by their children.  Their pain and sorrow is beyond comprehension. Life is so precious, and can be taken away in an instant.  My son’s sometimes terrible two’s now seem much less terrible.

I have been on some tragic scenes as a paramedic, but I have no idea what the responders to Sandy Hook Elementary are experiencing.  I could not offer any words of healing and encouragement better than Kelly Grayson does in his post, For Newtown Volunteer Ambulance Corps.  Here’s an excerpt:

Friday, you showed twenty-six families that for every madman who lashes out in a wanton act of destruction, there are twenty more people who will show up to pick up the pieces.

For every man bent on doing violence, twenty more show up, bringing kindness and acts of mercy.

For every calculated act of hatred, you counter with a dozen simple acts of love and selflessness that are as natural to you as breathing. You don’t even think about them, you do them so often.

Sure, you’re goofy-looking angels with your turnout gear and rumpled uniforms and bed hair, but only to people who don’t look close enough to see your wings. And the people who need you most never care what you look like.

Because you brought hope just by showing up.

Over at Rescue Digest, Rom Duckworth wrote about the need for responders to take care of each other.   I recently attended a talk given by a hospital chaplain.  The topic was unrelated to Newtown, but one sentence stuck out for me: however you are feeling right now is exactly how you should be feeling.  If you want to seek help, please do not be afraid to.  Happy Medic was brave enough to share his experiences with a psychotherapist.  I have seen one too, and we need to lose the stigma against it.  If you want help, please do not hesitate to seek it.

We also need to take action to prevent events like this from happening.  Over at Everyday EMS Tips, Greg Friese’s Start Here: Guns Never Kill Children provides some excellent places to start. He ends it by asking What are you going to do to make sure a gun never kills a child?

We also need to be prepared for when these horrific events do occur.  Over at EMS 1, James Augustine and Art Hsieh have columns with great insight about this. Art writes:

The table tops and drills are a lot of work. If events like these don’t motivate you to make sure your organization is capable of responding to these types of “unexpected” mass events, I’m not sure what will.

Another area to work on is better management of mental illness, which has gotten much less attention that the debate about guns.  I first read the viral I am Adam Lanza’s mother post from a Tweet that Greg sent.   Our healthcare system is not equipped to care for children like this, and do not believe that the solution is in the prison system.  There are no easy answers, and I’ve written before that I believe EMS can, and should, play a bigger role in managing patients with mental illnesses.

This is another conversation we need to have.


  1. Wow, what a powerful post, Bob. Glad to have found your website.

    It’s such an interesting angle to take, too. While what happened at Newtown was absolutely awful for both the parents and of course all the children and adults who passed, it was an immense nightmare beyond belief for those first responders, too.

    First responders of course see grisly scenes now and again, but it’s hard to compare to the scene at Sandy Hook. And that can really harm a person’s psyche.

    It was great to see some of the Newtown paramedics get coverage on TV for responding to such a tragedy. But it’s just as great to see someone like you remembering that first responders are normal people too, and some of them could certainly use an ear to talk to or maybe even a shoulder to cry on from time to time.

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