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What first responders see

January 20, 2014 - Jodelle Greiner
I was living in Texas, just south of the Red River, at the time of the Oklahoma City bombing. One of the local firefighters went north to help in the aftermath.

I think it was around one of the anniversaries of the bombing, a colleague of mine asked the firefighter for an interview about his experiences in the clean-up. The firefighter granted the interview and after Jeff’s article was printed, the firefighter’s family came in and thanked Jeff for writing it.

You see, that firefighter came back from OKC changed. He was reacting to stuff in ways he hadn’t before and his family didn’t know why. After reading the article, they understood more of what he had experienced and how it was affecting him because he’d told Jeff things he hadn’t told his own family.

There are legal reasons why people like cops, firefighters, EMTs, and soldiers can’t talk about what they do, but even if those legal reasons were removed, many would still chose to not talk to their families and friends about what they see in order to spare them.

I’ve been on the scene of crashes, standing on the fringes to do my job. Trust me, even that’s bad enough at times. I wouldn’t want to have to deal with what the first responders handle.

Sometimes people, out of well-meaning or just morbid curiosity, try to get a first responder to talk about an accident or fire or another experience. They get mad when the first responder won’t tell them. They don’t understand that the first responder is just trying to spare them the horror they’ve seen.

If you want to know what happens at crash sites or fires or in battle, go through the training that will qualify you to work those sites. Fire departments, police departments and ambulance crews are usually always looking for new recruits as members retire, move or burn out.

If you are one of those first responders who is having a tough time coping with what you’ve experienced, talk to someone. Find someone who’s done the job and will understand, or find yourself a good counselor. Don’t carry that burden alone.

If you are a soldier who needs to talk and you don’t want to expose your family to your experiences, contact any county Veterans Services Office. In Faribault County, call 507-526-4617; Martin County, call 507-238-3220; and Watonwan County, call 507-375-1254. They have resources to help you.


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